Monday, June 29, 2009

The Issues of Red Seas Under Red Skies

I'm in the happy position of owning a large number of unread very large fantasy novels. I've been watching the pile grow, but getting The Blade Itself for Father's Day made me decide I really had to tame the beast. I chose Red Seas Under Red Skies for the next one. Short review: Good read, but no Lies of Locke Lamora.

More on that later, but I have to mention a fundamental problem with these books. The main characters are thieves who happen to be as good with a weapon as they are with a cheeky quip. They are just too nice to be thieves in the nasty world that author Scott Lynch portrays. Lynch has a town where bored aristocrats pay money to watch the poor publicly tortured. Assassins are everywhere and the powerful are venal to a person. Danger is everywhere.

The thieves just don't act like the worn down people they would have to be. They regularly spare people, even people who were just trying to kill them. At one vexing point, someone tries to cut a rope that if cut, would lead to a violent death. They escape and let the fellow go, with a mild beating. This was done no doubt for plot purposes I have yet to see, but it is simply unbelievable. In another scene, a young man loses a contest and dies for it. Locke Lamora goes over to say a little prayer for him. Really? I know he wants us to like the guy, but come on.

It is like he wants a brutal world like China Mieville's while populating it with happy go lucky Oceans 11 characters. I felt the same way about the first book, but I was willing to let it slide because the plotting was so good. The less well crafted sequel makes the fundamental problems more glaring.

Anyway, it is good enough to continue. I will see if he can rescue the book.


Brack said...

Agreed that the second installment of Lynch's Locke Lamora series was not quite up to the first -- I did like it quite a bit though. Much better than most iof the genre.

Speaking of which, have you had a chance to read Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains? Very well done, but - as with the Altered Carbon sci fi trilogy - there are a couple of scenes that are a bit - ahem - over the top. Morgan fans will appreciate the familiar themes of individual loyalty/betrayal, the corruption of political and economic systems, etc. More than a whiff of Morgan's trademark quasi-Marxism here . . . not that there's anything wrong with that. And he does manage to utterly invert one of the most hidebound of genre traditions.

Tripp said...

Oh I am going to finish Red Skies. I just wish it were better. I still feel that the world is departing from the characters.

I haven't read Steel Remains, although I plan to do so. Checking I see that the number of holds is now low, I will have to place one, once I get below the library imposed limit of 15. Grrrrrr.

Per the Marxism, check Morgan's links page:

See this:

John Kay - For anyone out there who still thinks I'm a commie pinko command economy leftist.

John Pilger - For anyone out there who's just been to the previous link and thinks I've Sold Out.