And more books!

CRIMINAL: Lawless was the second in the five arcs of Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series, wherein Tracy Lawless goes AWOL in order to find out which member of his brother’s heist ring betrayed him. Reading The Sinners after this would definitely have worked better, as this sets up a lot, but it’s still a good read (and Lawless is as close to a hero as exists in this milieu).
CRIMINAL: The Dead and the Dying is a weaker book, telling interrelated stories set in the 1970s as Sebastian Hyde rises to power, a boxer makes a career move, Lawless’ father becomes a leg-breaker and a bad girl gets her comeuppance. Some interesting backstory, but not up to the present-day ones, and the trouble-making bad girl feels too sexist a film noir stereotype (I know it’s a standard element of such stories, but there’s got to be a fresh wrinkle on it).
DANTE’S EQUATION by Jane Jensen is a good concept——a scientist discovers an energy wave that determines the balance of good and evil and also realize the balance can be changed——ruined by bad handling. The first half uses the idea as an McGuffin in a stock thriller (in the DaVinci Code mode, but using The Bible Code rather than Holy Blood, Holy Grail as its crackpot inspiration) with stock thriller characters (ruthless federal agent, ambitious reporter, obsessed scientist [who’s also that sexist cliche, the woman too obsessed with her career to find love]); the second half spends too much time marveling at the weird worlds where the good/evil balance is different rather than doing anything. And the argument our balance is Just Right and higher good levels are really a Bad Thing seems like a cop-out (it avoids any question of tinkering with the power). Disappointing.
I’m more disappointed in THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND as this tour guide to fantasy world is written by Diana Wynne Jones, whom I much admire (as past review blog posts show). While enough points hit home that I can see why I laughed so much on first readings (why do bandits stockpile endless treasure in mountain fortresses and never do anything with it? Are there ever any mines worked by miners rather than shackled prisoners?) there’s a lot of nit-picking (as I noted here) and a lot that doesn’t seem to satirize epic fantasy/sword-and-sorcery cliches as much as “Well, I saw this in a book and I thought it was silly.” which isn’t much to build a book like this on. While I admit I might have missed stereotypes such as Gay Mage and Healer (as DWJ defines them) in my reading, I can’t believe her description of “Cave Dweller” represents a widespread cliche, and I’ve never seen a fantasy with an abandoned-but-boobytrapped-altar outside of Raiders of the Lost Ark and D&D games. A simple “Well, that’s not the kind of fantasy I like” would have been a better use of her time.

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One response to “And more books!

  1. Pingback: Diana Wynne Jones | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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