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5.0 out of 5 stars Best yet by author--memorable characters, laugh out loud
This is the best JC novel yet for me. Bones of the Moon had been my former favorite(and first by JC for me). I have always found his prose entertaining and fast. Dean Koontz's writing has a similar comfortable voice that moves along. His books are shorter and more terse than most writers. His prose isn't flowery. I find his romantic inclusions in his stories to be...
Published on Aug. 1 2003 by Royal

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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
One of my wife's more literate friends (actually, the only one) gave me this book because she thought I could relate to the gimpy dog ("Old Vertue") who is somewhat central to this story. Well, I'm not sure if I agree with that, but the book was an interesting, if not terrific, read.
A policeman with the same name as my old nanny (Frannie!) experiences...
Published on Dec 4 2002 by Hoppy Doppelrocket


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5.0 out of 5 stars Best yet by author--memorable characters, laugh out loud, Aug. 1 2003
By 
Royal "RoyalEF" (New Rochelle, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wooden Sea, The (Hardcover)
This is the best JC novel yet for me. Bones of the Moon had been my former favorite(and first by JC for me). I have always found his prose entertaining and fast. Dean Koontz's writing has a similar comfortable voice that moves along. His books are shorter and more terse than most writers. His prose isn't flowery. I find his romantic inclusions in his stories to be entertaining, real, not gushy.
Top of my list in this book is that Frannie McCabe is a great character. He is memorable, very real, distinct, likable. His talk and attitude actually made me laugh out loud at some quips--something books never manage to do for me--despite loving comedy in movies and tv.
I have read about 5 of JC's books and with this book I realized that he is not merely reusing people or place names from book to book but that there is some story building...a pantheon of characters and places. There is a larger story being told through many novels.
Despite playing with a concept (I will not reveal) that I feel has been used to death, especially in SciFi, I still enjoyed the treatment. I was worried at one point that it would just be another of those stories. I was only disappointed the that book ended... I wanted more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Book, Jan. 11 2003
This review is from: The Wooden Sea: A Novel (Paperback)
I can sum up "The Wooden Sea", by Jonathan Carroll, in one, quick statement: Absolutely the best book that I have ever read. Through all 300 odd pages I was as intrigued, compelled, and astounded as I was when I first began the story at a Borders cafe.
To begin with, I hadn't read a Jon Carroll book in a long time and upon seeing advertisements for his North American tour--posted on Neil Gaiman's (another favorite author! read him!) online journal--imediately began reminiscing about his older books. Since I am only fifteen years old, and he was not coming to my town, I gave my sister a ring--whose city would house Mr. Carroll for one evening--and politely asked her if she could get me an autograph of his latest book. Of course, being a good sister, she complied and on November 14 got my copy of "White Apples" signed.
Knowing I had a book signed by him, my interest in Jonathan Carroll was renewed doubly. And on one of my usual bookstore visits, I came across "The Wooden Sea". I decided to give it a read over a cup of coffee. Though the coffee I had ordered tasted unusualy delicious, it surely was not as delicious as the book I had begun to read. Jonathan draws you so tightly into this story and all the characters that I felt that I was Frannie McCabe--the main character-- and that I was experiencing all the uncanny madness that he was. Jonathan also does such an incredible job of making this fantastical story--which some authors could not--believable.
Reading this book is like staring at a Salvidor Dali painting. The scene is so surreal and flat out strange that you know none of this could ever happen, but Jonathan succeeds enormously in making you, in the far reaches of the back of your mind, ask: What if?
This is my favorite book of all time and I will treasure the magic that Jonathan Carroll has given me til the day they lock shut my coffin. I HIGHLY reccomend "The Wooden Sea"--along with the almost-equally good "White Apples"--to anyone who knows how to read. You won't regret reading this book.
-Dave
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5.0 out of 5 stars Carroll does not compromise his story., Dec 27 2002
By 
Earl P. Dean (Lexington, KY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wooden Sea: A Novel (Paperback)
Jonathan Carroll has written a world fantasy award nominee in his book The Wooden Sea. I have read such announcements about it, and I have read it. In the Wooden Sea, his hero is a small town Sheriff named Frannie. Frannie is a guy with a past that is tied to the central locale depicted in TWS. He has a wife and a stepdaughter. Early in the book, inexplicable happenings set up the fantasy in the story, and for a good part of the book, Frannie is trying to unravel this fantastic mystery. And the story works incredibly well as such. I think many readers will enjoy the story until the mystery is resolved well before the end of the book. When it does, however, Carroll chooses to bulldog his way through, making his points as he has intended, regardless of anyone's opinion. I loved this book all the way through to the end, and to me Carroll seems to be making these points: In The Wooden Sea, people themselves are alien and can only understand themselves in hindsight, and that outsiders cannot hope to understand anyone in particular. This seems plain to me when Frannie is asked to save humanity, with he himself a member of it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Dec 4 2002
This review is from: The Wooden Sea: A Novel (Paperback)
One of my wife's more literate friends (actually, the only one) gave me this book because she thought I could relate to the gimpy dog ("Old Vertue") who is somewhat central to this story. Well, I'm not sure if I agree with that, but the book was an interesting, if not terrific, read.
A policeman with the same name as my old nanny (Frannie!) experiences many unusual things in this story. In fact, this book is not grounded in the real world, so those of you who like novels based in reality will probably want to skip this one. It veers way south of Murakamiville as the out-of-this-world craziness is pretty much all encompassing. Some examples: A three-legged dog shows up, dies, is buried, and shows up alive again. More than once. Adult Frannie is visited by a teenaged version of himself (in both the present AND the future). Aliens abound (ridiculous!). Time travel mayhem is everywhere and history gets changed. If you can deal with all of this, you will probably enjoy this novel.
It's a fairly engaging mystery wrapped in a tale of love and the bizarreness of life. Narration is first person and at times both humorous and moving. I generally liked the story, but felt it a tad too creative, convenient, and otherworldly to really get into. Still...I did finish it and I told my wife's self-satisfied friend that I loooooved it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Shock of Versimilitude, Oct. 3 2002
By 
Robert J. Hard (Norwalk, CT United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wooden Sea: A Novel (Paperback)
I rarely have time for fiction anymore, but I heard an excerpt from The Wooden Sea read aloud on NPR. Naturally, I couldn't remember the name of the book, or the author for that matter, but the wrting was so powerful and zesty--so much like the best of Dashell Hammett--that I tracked it down on the NPR web site. It turned out that the excerpt was the first page, and if the rest of the book is not quite as good, it is ALMOST as good. That's why the four stars instead of the five.
Carroll's talent for conveying a setting is so strong it's almost unnerving. The story is set in what I take to be a small town along the Hudson, north of New York City. I know what those towns are like (Irvington, Croton, Hastings, Dobbs Ferry et al.), know what they were like in the time he is describing. Carroll absolutely nails it. There was also a tiny detail about an old fart with a Jaguar. I recognized him immediately. It was my father (or someone ... like him), and believe me, this little detail gave me the shakes.
The central character, Frannie McCabe, is police chief in this small town, no small thing given his teen years as a total screw-up. Yet its really not a contradiction: Frannie young and Frannie mature is simply a guy who doesn't take any crap, and he has worked his way into a job where he doesn't have to. Hard bitten and a tad cynical he may be, but he is also caring, even loving, and thus is someone you don't mind spending some time with.
Frannie has a serious need to know what's going on. He's supposed to know what's going on. He's the top cop. But what starts going on gets weirder and weirder. Time seems to have slipped its moorings, and reality keeps replaying itself, like a film moving back and forth through an editing machine. And that's the thing: reality really is being edited in subtle and not so subtle ways.
When Frannie finds the editors, he wonders (naturally enough) whether they are messengers from God. No, they're not. I won't spoil it for people who haven't read this, but suffice to say here that the time benders are only slightly less clueless than we are.
I found the fantasy/supernatural aspect quite plausible. Some people like this stuff, some people don't. I didn't think I'd like it, but I did. It had a certain spiritual resonance without being the slightest bit preachy, and some of the concluding imagery was so emotionally engaging it put tears in my eyes.
Funnily enough, what I didn't find quite plausble was Franny being the chief of police. He's just too much of a rule breaker, too insubordinate. To me, he would have been better placed as a detective, but this is a quibble. Immediately after reading The Wooden Sea I picked up Land of Laughs, which was also excellent. As I say, I rarely have time for fiction anymore, so that should give you a clue about how much I enjoyed this.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Defies explanation, but definitely wastes your time., Sept. 5 2002
This review is from: The Wooden Sea: A Novel (Paperback)
Reading some of the 5 Star reviews that this book has been given makes me feel as though I am in one of the mind-numbing time warps that Jonathan Carroll seems to enjoy creating; nothing is as it seems. Although this novel started out with exciting promise, interesting characters, and fascinating incidents, Carroll seems to become so involved with his own complicated plot twists that he forgets where he was going. The story loses its thread and Carroll, rather than putting it back on track, just uses the time honored fantasy trick of ignoring the inconsistencies, time shifting the scenarios, and starting a new thread without any explanation. It's like riding in a race car with a driver who doesn't know how to shift gears; all jumps and jerks and false starts that fail to get you where you want to go. It seemed as if Carroll simply got tired of writing or was so confused by his own twists and turns and double loops that he just decided to stop the story with no satifactory explanation or culmination. I found this book to be the biggest waste of time in recent memory and no amount of touting it as alternative fiction can make it worthwhile to mainstream readers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Your mind trying to digest a koan..., June 20 2002
By 
Zentao (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wooden Sea, The (Hardcover)
"How do you row a boat on a wooden sea?"
Well, for anyone who has ever meditated on koan, this book comes very close to mirroring what happens to the ego as it wrestles with such a question. The book starts innocently enough but then begins its descent into a weird universe as the main character flips back and forth through time trying to answer a question.
The characters are certainly not 'normal' in any sense of the word - think PK Dick or perhaps J Lethem - and the situations are certainly run-of-the-mill. But the questions Carroll is trying to wrestle with are not easily asked, let alone trying to come up with answers. Starting from a quite mundane state the main character, McCabe, begins his descent into weirdness that culminates with time-traveling aliens.
Carroll always treads a razor-like line between the mundane and the weird, much like Murakami. I still prefer Murakami's stylistic touches, or perhaps I should say, lack of stylistic touches. That is, Carroll appears much less neutral in his role as storyteller than Murakami. Both writers certainly seem to share a fascination with what is always lurking below apparently bland surfaces.
It would appear to me that Carroll is trying to allude to some sort of involvement in an Eastern tradition such as Zen. Certainly his novels have a strong current of mysticism and strong warnings about tempering the ego's drive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting metaphysical exploration of identity, May 29 2002
By 
M. J. Smith (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wooden Sea: A Novel (Paperback)
After a stange, abused dog has been adopted, buried and resurrected by Frannie McCabe, McCabe's friend asks him if by way of explantion McCabe wants a logical or a metaphysical answer. The book veers the direction of the metaphysical. We then follow McCabe thru a series of time shifts in which the 47 year-old McCabe of the story is joined by a younger (or older) McCabe. McCabe is too "find the answer" to a question that is unknown even to those manipulating the time continuum.
This complex plot requires careful planning which is carried out with some minor flaws. The disappearance of a couple well known for domestic violence and the death of a teen from an overdose of heroin, seem to be arbitrary devices to start the trajectory of the novel even when one has the "why" behind the bizarre occurences. In the final chapters, the author's depiction of McCabe's health and strength seem inconsistent despite the plot at one point explicitly adding strength to McCabe.
The story is sprinkled with gentle humor - how G.G. gets his name, the secret language of love, trivia contests based on 50's TV, the dog Old Vertue being identified from a 400 year-old painting... It is also sprinkled with quotations from other authors that are wise in a 'working-stiff' way.
Throughout the story, we see McCabe grappling with who he was, who he is, and who he will become. The cause of this grappling is standard but inventive sci-fi metaphysical fanatasy. The book as a whole - an interesting diversion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars STARTS WITH A BANG, ENDS WITH A WHIMPER, Aug. 24 2001
This review is from: Wooden Sea, The (Hardcover)
Frannie McCabe, the unlikely hero of "The Wooden Sea", started his life as a rebellious youth given to bullying and terrorizing the town of Crane's View, in upstate New York. Now a much calmer adult, he oversees that town's police force as chief. Having made peace with the demon's of his youth, Frannie has settled into a pleasant, if somewhat uneventful, life in Crane's View. That is until he befriends a three-legged dog, which summarily drops dead in his office one day. Taking it upon himself to bury the poor thing, it starts into action a chain of events that changes Frannie's life, and death, forever. Drawing on "magical realism" to tell his story, Jonathan Carroll weaves a brilliant premise of gods, aliens, and strange, colorful feathers which seem to keep cropping up whenever things are about to get really hinky in Frannie's world. The story is engrossing throughout it's many plot twists and turns, but seems somehow to take far too long to get to its point. By the end of this story, I found myself skimming over the last pages to find the answers, not really caring about the droning particulars of the story any longer. Written with a wry nod to Neil Gaiman, "The Wooden Sea" starts out with a bang, and ends with the whimper of a three-legged dog named Old Vertue.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a wild ride.. destination unknown, Aug. 10 2001
By 
Pamela Goldman (Scottsdale, AZ United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wooden Sea, The (Hardcover)
I bought this book after hearing a reference to it on an NPR show about "Summer Reading" lists. The person recommending it read a passage from early on -- I think it was a description of the dog Old Vertue -- which struck a chord with me. I thought anything that starts out this odd must get odder and be quite fun in the process. I was right.
But I didn't expect to be as sucked in as I was to the story and its various turns and bizarre events. I could not put this book down.. and as soon as I finished reading it I started it again. After the first read I was left with questions -- I think I took some of the more fantastic elements of the plot a bit literally -- the answers to which become more apparent on the second read -- which I approached in terms of looking at the life of Frannie McCabe, much as the first reviewer suggested. But dont see this as a reason NOT to dive into The Wooden Sea. It was well worth the journey!
The writing style is a joy: very conversational with a pearl that made me smile every few pages and at least one stunner per chapter. Carroll made me care about these people and I plan to buy his others books as soon as I finish writing this review!
And I liked the idea that seemingly odd things would occur that I did not expect -- life throws us wingers every day, okay maybe not as strange as those in the book, but I appreciate the wonder he presents the reader. Its a small book that tells a fun story and packs a lot in besides that if you care to investigate. The notion of our various "selves" at different ages being present to help us out of jams and to consult with about life's problems is a provacative one. Carroll is an author to keep an eye on, no doubt. Read this, again and again.
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The Wooden Sea: A Novel
The Wooden Sea: A Novel by Jonathan Carroll (Paperback - Feb. 9 2002)
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