A few weeks ago, a novel came into my possession for the fortune of reviewing the inscriptions inside. Indeed, I was curious of its contents and from there delved into what was sure to be a mastery of descriptive intrigue, character building and soaring, gripping plotline. If the author has won the Philip K. Dick award, then assuredly, it must be good enough for myself I had pondered.
Was that hard to read? Are you bored out of your [Aylesford] skull?
Because that is how I felt for the last few weeks trying my best to read this book.
I gave it every spare minute I could in the evenings, snuggled up with a blanket. I gave it my break time at work, where I am most likely to be pulled into a welcome distraction. I gave it car rides, park benches, couches, time spent with a cat cuddled up on me [I’m allergic, but sympathetic to the needs of a scratched chin].
Please don’t mistake me for a non-reader. I love books. I love reading. I love fantasy books, history books, and science fiction books. I also love Steampunk. It would stand to reason that I would be a great pick to review this book.
Dear readers, I was so bored. I found myself folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom because I was more interested in that.
It took seven chapters for the book to even outline what was going on. It starts off well enough, with a dark boat ride and some intrigue.
But from there, you are assaulted with rambling descriptions and unfocused trains of thought from the characters. It is much like that friend who starts up talking about their bad day and ends two hours later talking about shoe factories in China.
How did we get there? What did we just talk about? No one knows. You eyes have glazed over and you are just nodding at the appropriate breaks for air.
The top character of the aforementioned novel, Langdon St. Ives, seems to have very little emotional range. He sees his lovely wife. He is intrigued by an airship. He puts on his boots. His whole family is nearly poisoned by a laced trout. His son is kidnapped by his arch nemesis. He gets in a carriage. These are executed all with the same congenial curiosity and meandering thought trains.
I understand that the book is meant to take place in a faux Victorian-esque Great Britain where emotions are not really a done thing, but really, even the Church of England does better in enthusiasm.
Literally, his response to finding his son has been kidnapped by a man who is sure to kill the lad and use his head for a ghost experiment is not much more than declaring that he must go and find him. It’s far too, “Right, right, keep calm and carry on,” for me.
The dialogue patters and the plots wander around. All of the characters thoughts seem very distracted and it is hard to keep track of what is going on because everyone tangents off about trout fishing, elephants, foster children, what have you.
The set up for the villain is comical to me. He has a very novel-esque name, Narbondo, a hump on his back and wears a black cape. He is fascinated by the black arts.
Thank you, two-penny theater. Didn’t see that one coming.
Now that I have told you how I really felt, let me give a positive or two. I think that the problem with the novel is that it would make better sense as a graphic novel or even a TV show.
I know, I know. I don’t make any sense. But let me explain.
All the time that is spent dithering around in lugubrious detail about trout fishing scenes, the meeting with a medium, the clothes and the airship off in the distance, are a great visual. I can visualize exactly what the author wants me to see. I find it tedious that it takes up two pages to get there.
A graphic novel would be well suited for the kind of elegant detail the author seeks in writing steampunk. A T.V. show would be even better, because there could be elaborate setups that the short dialogue would actually compliment.
I won’t give a star or a thumb because that isn’t my style.
I will say, I was bored and for once think that the show would be better than the book.