Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

image

Opening with a murderous rampage at a party held by a corrupt politician, once again, Sanderson plumbs the possibilities of his Mistborn universe in Scadriel extending the reach of the characters Waxillium Ladrian,  Wayne and Marasi, whom he had introduced in The Alloy Of Law. The feel of this novel is distinctly Industrial Revolutionary with the rising prominence of factories and unemployment. Marches on the streets of Elendel and proletarian disgruntlement. You almost expected a thinly disguised William Blake or Karl Marx to wander around a corner.

We are also reacquainted with some of the original characters and concepts again: the kandra get to take centrestage this time and we see a cameo from both TenSoon and the ascended Sazed, now known as Lord Harmony. It was an interesting exploration of a god’s role maintaining balance between Preservation and Ruin: his power and limitations.

The plot itself is simultaneously straightforward and byzantine and breaks away frim the suspiciously evil uncle. Elendel’s Lord Governor is the target of an assassination plot which utilises a range of both feruchemical and allomantic abilities. Speed, strength, healing and the coinshot skills of Wax himself. Added to that, we have the shape-shifting abilities of the kandra  and the novel has the potential to be a terrifyingly claustrophobic and intense one. No one is safe; anyone could be the killer in disguise. It would be tricky to follow for anyone not familiar with the Mistborn magic systems. Along the way, we encounter food shortages, industrial unrest and violence between different religious groups.

It doesn’t quite reach the potential which the premise has: Wax leaps into the mist just a little too often; there are a few too many shifts on point of view; just one or two too many info dumps about politics and history. The twist itself was – or perhaps twists were – relatively recognisable from half way through. It was good, but a little too heavy on action for my liking.

The original Alloy of Law was apparently written as an imaginative exercise by Sanderson after his stint on The Wheel Of Time and I think that that showed in the fun and playfulness of that first book which he hadn’t intended to publish. This time round, he seemed to be taking things more seriously and trying to invest more depth into his hero… we see Wax and Wayne haunted by their past actions is great, but some of the fun seemed diminished somehow. It’s still a good read… but the gusto of the Alloy of Law seems to be reduced. Wax continues in the archetypal role of crusading unconventional detective moving outside the limits of the law, in the model of Batman and Holmes – and Harry Dresden.

The next book, Bands Of Mourning, is out soon – apparently this month – and I’ll probably pick it up and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Apparently,  the Lord Ruler’s bracers are discovered….

Advertisements

image

Right,  firstly an apology in advance: this is my first post after changing phones and the larger screen of the Galaxy S6 and different spacing on the keyboard is enough to fox my little mind. And fingers. It doesn’t take much to fox either. So,  as I saw,  apologies for any typos… well,  more than usual!

Anyway,  onto Storm Front,  the first of the Dresden Files, which numerous people I know have been raving about,  and Jim Butcher’s debut novel.

The concept is no longer original – but it is fifteen years old now! Set in Chicago, Dresden is a wizard working as both a private investigator and a consultant for Karrin Murphy investigating crimes which touch on the supernatural world which lurks beneath our own. Chicago has its own drug and gang crime issues,  primarily in this novel headed by Gentleman Johnny Marconi, reminiscent of the mobs of Gotham City. The supernatural world is itself policed by Wardens and The White Council enforcing their own laws – which are far more important than ours,  hence the fact that they are Laws – and has its own rogue and dark elements. And vampires, fairies and demons and no doubt other creatures for future novels.

All of these elements become involved in a double murder in which two people have their hearts ripped out of their chests by dark magic.

There are all sorts of influences on Butcher which are pretty apparent: Batman is explicitly referenced but there’s a whole literary lineage going back to Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade and Philips Marlowe. Dresden is in that line of hardboiled detectives; however, Butcher is not a writer of the same calibre as Hammett, Chandler or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed the book. It had a cracking pace and was decently plotted. But the writing struck me as a tad juvenile in places, a little clichéd and familiar, and his treatment of women seemed perhaps a century out of date. Rarely did he let a description of a woman go without a sensual adverb or adjective slipping in. Women seemed to consist mainly of legs (generally shapely), lips  (usually full and plump), and breasts. The depiction of Bianca St Claire, the vampire madame whose employee had been one of the first victims in the book, was a case in point. Most writers whose vampires who transform tend to focus on teeth or eyes and the facial changes. Butcher lingered uncomfortably long on the changes in her breasts as she transformed into her true vampiric form.

The plotting was also a tad obvious: two apparently separate cases opened in the first chapter. A couple of potions were brewed about half way through. Not a subplot was left unintegral to the main plot; not a potion was brewed that was not required elsewhere.

Was it easy to anticipate who the antagonist Shadowman was? Pretty much so.

Now, that said, it was a decent quick read: 499 pages which you can whip through in a week. It was pretty fun and Dresden – struggling with the temptation of reverting to dark magics himself – has potential as a protagonist. At a personal level, I’ve had a really tough couple of weeks and this novel was a solid escape from that. I’ve also had trouble getting into the various things I’ve been reading recently (personally I blame Kate Atkinson: after reading Life After Life even this year’s Man Booker List haven’t gripped me like they usually do) and something with no pretensions to anything other than a fun genre fiction romp hit the spot well this week.

20120510-144930.jpg

I was torn between three and four stars on this but came to the view that having read through it in 4 days it was a four, but I do have reservations about this book.

It is without doubt a great read, fun enjoyable and lighthearted. It evokes the atmosphere of the 1800s in the Wild West style Roughs in which Wax and Wayne act as lawmen; and also the atmosphere of Victorian England, setting the majority of the book in the city emerging into modernity, almost reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, the two protagonists Wax and Wayne are very much a Holmes and Watson double-act, Wayne specifically deferring to Wax’s powers of deduction on at least two occasions. They also reminded me very much of Batman and Robin: Wax is the discredited heir of a great house returning to the City and Society to assume the mantle of the head of house, but disappearing into the night and the mists with his mistcloak flapping about him. Is the decision to use the name Wayne an homage to Bruce Wayne? There’s even an old retained butler! The other writer that it reminded me of in its lightheartedness undercut by darkness was Pratchett: Wax seemed to have echoes of Sam Vimes at times.

I think the biggest problem I had with this book was the expectations I had of it. I was looking for the same character building, mythologising and originality that Sanderson had displayed in the original trilogy. The most intriguing and satisfying moment in this book was, unfortunately, the cameo by Marsh from the original trilogy as Ironeyes, who has evolved in the mythology of the world into a demonic Lord of the Dead figure.

The book suffers from the inevitable comparison with the original series. There was a definite arc to the original: the characters developed from rebels and urchins to statesmen and finally reached apotheosis. This feels much more static in its momentum: as a member of the society created by the events of the Mistborn trilogy and, therefore, one that we have to have faith in, Wax is interested in maintaining a status quo rather than overturning it which has inherently limited the scope of the novel. It is interesting that even Wax himself seems to recognise this: he tells the reader that in the Final Empire, his nemesis Miles would have been seen as a hero.

Nor is it in any way as original as Mistborn. Again, this is not the fault of Sanderson’s writing but of the premise. The book is set in a previously created universe and therefore cannot be original without being unfaithful. I did like the combinations of the allomancy and feruchemy to produce a different style of skills (magic doesn’t seem to be the correct term for a power system based on science and metallurgy).

Apparently conceived as nothing more than a personal creative writing exercise without the intention of being published, the book does have that feel of derivative fan-fiction rather than mythologising high fantasy, albeit done extremely well and by an extremely competent story teller. Great fun though.

20120510-145049.jpg