After finishing the Martin books, I was left with a bit of a book void, which may explain my disappointment with Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down.
It isn't that the book was bad, per se, just that it wasn't nearly as gripping as I thought it could have been. Hornby's story starts off with four suicidal people on the roof of a building, all waiting to jump in privacy. Ultimately, they save each other from death that night and become tied together in ways unexpected and generally inexplicable to their families, friends and the media. Hornby delves into some of the big questions with these four - why are we here? What is selfish and what is selfless? How can we fix those big mistakes we will inevitably make at some point? Where can we draw the line between the personal and the public?
While the book does make you think, which is my ultimate test of a book's quality, it can feel forced at times, with enjoying the present moment, living life to the fullest, learning to forgive yourself, etc. The prose is simple and straightforward, which makes the message easy to appreciate on a fundamental level, but without any one character to relate to or feel any connection to (we are given the choice between a prim old lady with a disabled son, an asshole television star recently out of prison for statutory rape, a somewhat manic teenage daughter of a local politician, and an American ex-pat pizza delivery guy with no ambitions but to get back together with his ex), it is hard to really feel the impact of the answers to these questions.
A pretty quick read, if you'd like to see for yourself. And not altogether a waste of time.