Every so often, I’ll have a book come in to the library, and I’ll have no idea why I put it on hold. I know my own tastes, though, and I figure there must have been a good reason I put it on hold, so I just start reading it. I don’t refer to the dust jacket to refresh my memory; I want to be wowed by the story, without having to wait for certain elements of the story to arrive, since I know they’re going to happen. Eventually.
With The Society of S, this was a great idea, since the details that the dust jacket reveals don’t become apparent in the story until about a third of the way through the novel. Oh, it’s suggested and emphasized within the story, which is, at its core, a coming-of-age story about a lonely, isolated girl, but there’s always that lingering doubt that makes you wonder exactly where the author is taking you, and it’s a nice surprise too figure out that you were right. I like being surprised by stories, which is part of the reason that I tend to ignore any information about movies I want to see (including trailers). I’ve had stories spoiled for me too many times to want to know anything more than “I want to see (or read) that.”
So, that begs the question: Do I tell you, or let you figure it out for yourself? You could easily read the dust jacket yourself, when you have the book in your hands, so I’ll let you decide. Needless to say, though, the first half of this novel is a fine example of a Gothic novel, since the atmosphere of the story becomes a character by itself. It reminded me a little of The Thirteenth Tale, because the story is set in modern times, but the style and setting of the novel is anachronistic enough to make you forget this until something modern intrudes. Where The Thirteenth Tale, though, maintains the atmosphere, Hubbard lets it go after the first half of the novel and takes the story in a totally different direction. It gets too strange, and too coincidental, and devolves into a standard suspense tale with little direction.
The antagonist doesn’t really reveal himself until the final third of the chapter, and the resulting conflict with the protagonists seems forced and hurried. The resolution seems too easy, though I have to say, the author avoids cliches with her ending. There are also some truly strange aspects of the story that threw me right out of the story from time to time, and I think the reader is supposed to accept those oddities as normal, based on what we learn about the main characters. For me, though, it was too “out there” for me to accept.
Hubbard seems to be a fine enough writer, especially in the way that she captures the atmosphere of the story. Her plotting seems to leave a bit to be desired, but then again, I expect a lot out of my fiction. I read too much and have too many other books I want to read, to waste time on stories that are unsatisfying. If you like Gothic novels, then you should check it out; if you’re more interested in the story because of what the dustjacket tells you, though, you might be better off finding another novel of that type instead.