Saturday, December 16, 2006

JD's Take: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch)

Dane Cook says that there are two things guys want more than sex: to be in a heist, and a monkey. He's a comedian, ergo he jokes, but I think he's on to something here. That something is the inherent goodness of a good heist. A caper. A con. A scheme cleverly implemented to bilk some poor sap with too much money out of a large portion of that money. I don't even need to list for you the movies that have been made based on how Good a fine caper is, or the tremendous amount of literature dedicated to depicting ever more clever schemes. You know these things because you realize on a deep level that heisting is Awesome.

You see where I'm going with this? Scott Lynch did the unthinkable with The Lies of Locke Lamora. He wrote a con game novel in a fantasy setting. Probably this has been done before. But there are a number of reasons why this time it actually matters. I will list them, list wise, thusly:
1) He doesn't just use the fantasy setting as a backdrop. The characters are involved with it, it is independently interesting (though not, I admit, groundbreaking) and well developed. It has unique features that play into the story, magic that actually effects the plot, and even decent politics. The religion is also fucking sweet. I approve.

2) Proficient and prolific cussing. The characters cuss like drunken sailors on leave. Or, to put it another way, like normal human beings would in the same situations.

3) Clever writing, complete with >1 actual, truly, surprising moment. I'm not talking, "if I blinded myself to the obvious in an effort to go along with things I'd be surprised by that!". I'm talking, holy-shit-i-can't-believe-that-shit surprises. Maybe I'm just dense, but everybody else seemed to react the same way, so maybe not. Kudos Mr. Lynch.

4) The reader does not have his intelligence doubted. Many authors, when writing a clever twist down, seem to chuckle to themselves, saying: "mwahahaha. My readers will never see THIS coming" and then wait for the (*yawn*) clever reveal in another 100 pages. Mr. Lynch understands that readers are clever monkeys, and can see through the ruses of his characters. Consequently, he doesn't hold off just telling us the truth. Looking back, this may be a clever trick to catch us off guard for the aforementioned surprises.

So we have on our hands a well written, fun, exciting, suspenseful, clever fantasy novel with an interesting world, fascinating characters who cuss a lot, and a writer capable of surprising me. AND it's a book about an elaborate and clever con game to bilk a rich politico out of his money. AND it's written to an intelligent audience, while still managing to surprise.

So why do I look so glum?

I have to wait until March-ish for the sequel. The good news is that the publisher seems to have some idea what a find it has in Scott Lynch and has him scheduled for a grueling schedule of books, novelettes, and short stories. He's signed up for, I dunno, seven more books or so. This Will Not Suck. Ooh! He's also young, I'd say 25ish, which means many more book-rearing years in him yet.

I wonder if he knows about the monkeys?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lisa's Take: Magic Study (Maria V. Snyder)

There’s not a whole lot to this book, so it gets just a quickie.

You know Mercedes Lackey? Think that, but a little better, with more enjoyable characters, slightly adult-ier themes, and no goddamn telepathic animals.

Again, this is the second book in a series (what is up with me and that?) and the general idea is that our Heroine returns to her country of birth to learn how to control the magic inherent to her family line. She misses home, stuff happens, she helps people out and starts to come to grips with her heritage. Yay.

Aaaand that’s about it. It’s a good book, and entertaining. Not quite as original and engaging as the first, but still tasty, and easily consumable in just a few hours.

General thumbs-upness.