Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Diving for treasure

Books in the remainder bin present a challenge. Are they there because they suck? Most of the time yes. Think of everything Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton have written since about 1991. Sometimes though, a book's critical buzz leads to overprinting and so the bookstores have to move all those unsold hardcovers when the softcover comes out. This is the case with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

This book is not for everyone. As I wrote below, it takes concentrating. It is also is best suited for fans of both 19th century British fiction like Austen and Trollope, AND fantasy novels. Not semi-literate ones like the works of Terry Goodkind, but literate ones like Pullman's or Martin's books. She writes in the voice of a 19th century novelist with little asides like "He was somewhat goodlooking, but as is well known, a redhaired person cannot be truly good looking." Thanks to this a large section of the reading public is cut out. In addition, the book is over 800 pages in hardcover. This is due in part to her amusing digressions. One of the characters, who is a magician, is charged with interogatting a wooden mermaid on a captured French ship. Since she had been from harbor to harbor she had seen quite a bit. Once animated she proceeds to curse and beat every Englishmen that sets upon her. Little tales like these fill this book.

If you like books that create entire worlds in which to dwell for a few weeks, this is a good choice.

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