Monday, January 14, 2013

2: Scott Lynch - The Lies of Locke Lamora

In one of those worlds where everything is made of obsidian* and everything is slightly magical, a conman, thief, and gang member in good standing called Locke Lamora* hatches a plan to relieve some wealthy people of their money, while at the same time, unbeknownst to him, he has become a key component of someone else's plan to do Very Bad Things to a great many people within the city state of Camorr. Sounds very exciting, doesn't it? And it probably would be if was a 300-page caper full of cut and dash.
But it isn't. Instead it's a 500-page slog where every single clever idea that pops into the author's head gets spun out into a lengthy description, and every detail of clothing, furnishing, and location is laid out in forensic detail (stop telling me that the buildings were made by a giant race who were there before people. You've told me five times now, and believe it or not, I can remember it from the first time you told me). Some of these ideas are pretty clever, but others just don't work, and the ones that don't work grew to annoy me pretty quickly.
(For example, the world Lynch has built has 12 gods, or 13 if you're one of the Right People. So instead of saying "oh my god," people swear by saying, "gods!" Which is fine. But they also say "gods-damned" a lot, where Earth people would say "goddamn." Now, I don't know if you've tried saying "gods-damned" out loud, but it doesn't work as an exclamation. It's too hard to say. But there it is, scattered throughout the book, annoying me.)
Locke Lamora's plan is also pretty dull, as is a lot of the talk about guilds and pacts between various lawless or religious factions within the city state. The annoying thing about this is that you can't really skim it because some of it turns out to be important later on.
However, if you're prepared to wade through the setup stuff in order to get to the far more exciting second half, you're richly rewarded with dastardly baddies, a confused and imperilled protagonist (the best kind), some serious revenge motivation, a couple of exciting fight sequences, and a sickeningly vertiginous escape before everything gets wrapped up in a highly satisfactory manner. Oh, if only the whole thing could have been like this. I get the awful feeling it was written backwards, with things happening in the exciting second half that then needed to be tediously set up in the first, like Bill and Ted's escape from jail.

* "Why do people in these books make everything out of obsidian? What's wrong with steel? Steel's much stronger." - Husband's response to my observation about the language in the book.

* Whenever I say The Lies of Locke Lamora out loud, I always have to do it in an Oirish accent.


Andrew Farrell said...

This is very good news to me, as I am stalled halfway through this book :)

I do like that not everything is slightly magical (I think it's just one branch of botany?) because of UNIONS.

Colman Reilly probably says "Gods-damned" (this will be funnier to Husband, admittedly)

But yeah at heart it's a pretty simple scan so far - the real problem with this book is that Perdido Street Station already exists.

Andrew Farrell said...

Scam, not scan!

mylescorcoran said...

I rather bounced off this too, when it was all the rage in fandom circles a few years ago. Overwritten and not grabby enough at the beginning, I felt.

Trish Byrne said...

>>I do like that not everything is slightly magical (I think it's just one branch of botany?) because of UNIONS.<<

I'm not sure about this. There seemed to be alchemical stuff EVERYWHERE, which to me is code for slightly magical. Every light, every heat source, seemed to have the word alchemical in front of it, like when crap sci-fi writers say "he munched on his space biscuits".
>>Overwritten and not grabby enough at the beginning, I felt.<<
That's exactly how I felt. I pressed on because sometimes I'm worried that it's me, not the book, but I don't think I'd bother reading another one. They might make good films, though.