The Biology of Luck is a novel that I really wanted to like. I refrained from judging it until I was finished with it. And I succeeded in withholding that judgment (or at least maintaining ambivalence) until the end.
First I would like to say that if you have lived in New York City, are nostalgic for New York City, or just want to get a different point of view of New York City and have never been, than this book is certainly for you. I have never been to New York but I have always wanted to go and at one point thought about attending NYU (but I didn’t, that’s a story in and of itself) but inside my head I have this image of New York that has been nurtured by movies and TV and comic books (New York to me is best represented by the New York featured in Spider-man comics) and I know the image in my head is probably nowhere near the reality of it. But in Biology of Luck the city is fleshed out in such a way that it makes it feel like a real city and less like a glossed over representation. So to it’s credit, Biology of Luck does a fantastic job of creating a setting you can believe in.
The rest of the book however leaves a little to be desired. Without a doubt it’s a character driven book, sadly the two main characters remain underdeveloped and don’t really seem to change or learn anything from their adventures. Additionally, this is a love story, and there really isn’t any time in the book where I got the sense that I wanted to see the main character get the girl. He’s ugly and lonely and wrote a book about the main character and because of this he should get Starshine and the narrator will often tell you about how Larry is ugly and lonely and will get Starshine and about the book Larry wrote about her, but aside from this I don’t ever see any real reason why she should want him as the two characters aren’t even together in the book until the very last chapter and she never thinks about him in anything other than a friendly capacity (when she thinks of him at all) and never once contemplates him as a suitable romantic partner…maybe. Starshine’s chapters are supposed to be from a book which Larry wrote about Starshine, so really we don’t get too much about Starshine unless it’s from Larry’s point of view…maybe, but more on that in a moment. I need to tell you about the ending.
The ending is really the worst part. It’s an unforgivably dissatisfying ending. It’s like you go a really long distance, the whole book building up to this one moment, only to have it rush past you to something that is ambiguous, but not ambiguous in a way that makes you think or leaves you with a sense of intrigue, but ambiguous in a way that makes you go “okay? What now?” where instead of satisfaction there is slight confusion, like you’ve been told a really lame joke. The book really needs like twenty or thirty more pages at the end, which is sad that the ending is like this because halfway through the book the layout really starts to build intrigue. Each chapter alternates between Larry Bloom and Starshine. Starshine’s chapters are supposed to be from the book that Larry has written about her, about the day in which he reveals how he feels about her, but at about the midway point in the book you start to wonder if the chapters are really from the book or if they are actually happening because as in Larry’s chapters things happen that are reflected in Starshine’s chapters which can’t happen in Starshine’s chapters if those are based on a book Larry wrote prior to the events taking place in his chapters. I don’t know if this is intentional or not but halfway through the book this becomes a good driving force to finish it.
But like I said the ending is very dissatisfying. I won’t tell you what the ending is, check it out for yourself if you really want to know.
The book is also filled with way too much exposition. Several times I just wanted the narrator to get on with it. There are a lot of spots where it just feels like an endless soliloquy of information that just isn’t necessary.
But that’s my take on it. I say maybe pass this one over. If you want to try it out and find out for yourself than I would say go for it. In truth, it does have entertainment value despite it’s flaws, many of the situations are ridiculous and Larry is unbelievably pathetic and if you’re looking for a casual read or some type of convention breaking writing than pick this up, you won’t be disappointed…until the ending.