Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

October 28, 2006 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | 5 Comments

Scott Lynch took a bizarre route to becoming a published author. He was posting excerpts of this novel on his blog when, yep, a publisher read it, contacted him, and ended up buying it. This is one of those fantasy books that earnestly tells you it is the first of seven…I guess some people find this a selling point, but for me it is just about an immediate deal breaker. Not to worry, though, it stands quite well on its own.

The good news here is that as a reader you are in very capable hands with Lynch. Despite this being his first published work his prose and dialogue is very effective. While a fantasy book with magic and so forth, the overall flavor of the book is sort of Charles Dickens meets Dorothy Dunnett. Or something. The main character starts out as a poor street urchin turned thief turned…uh, adult thief? Unfortunately, the plot is mostly concerned with this unconvincing gangster turf battle and “honor among thieves” business. Throw in some corrupt politicians for a little flavor. Throughout the main character is animated by utterly aimless greed (the proceeds of his crime just pile up while he and his merry band live the life of the noble poor), concern for friends, and self-preservation. There’s some nice twists, fun set pieces, and snappy lines, but I was never quite convinced there was any good reason for me to care about any of this. With (sigh) six books to go, perhaps some real character development, themes, or other high minded literary practices will emerge to match Lynch’s talent with the nuts and bolts, but for the moment it all feels rather shallow.

Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe

October 15, 2006 at 12:00 am | Posted in 3 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | 2 Comments

The trouble with reading Gene Wolfe is one is never sure whose fault it is when a book doesn’t quite come off. But where most books are willing, even eager, to carefully walk the reader through what they have to offer, Gene Wolfe’s novels stand there and give you a proud, appraising look. Sometimes the challenge lies in the complexity of the story, as in the Book of the New Sun. Other times, Wolfe expects the reader to have knowledge that they may not possess. Ignorance of ancient Greece was a handicap (though not insurmountable) to enjoying the previous Latro books. This story, a sequel to the excellent previous books that essentially stands alone, is set in Egypt and may have similar requirements, although it’s quite a bit more unreasonable to expect the reader to know anything about Hellenistic Egypt’s mysticism. So what do we have here? Like the previous stories, it is a fun, swaggering sort of adventure story that is a joy to read. As always in Wolfe’s fiction, things happen that are difficult to explain, but it seems like an there is an explanation, so it’s easy to let things ride. My complaint is the ending of the book failed to provide any sort of closure. I think Wolfe intends to write another Latro book, but given his age it seems, well, not to be morbid, but a little risky to be leaving things so open. In the meantime, while this is a good book, it is down towards the bottom of Wolfe’s works and, unless an illuminating sequel proves to be forthcoming, should probably be left to Wolfe completists only.

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