The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would at first. The premise is that of a young orphan boy raised into the art of thievery, unfurling clever schemes and heists on a town in a medieval-style fantasy setting. My first impressions were that it was severely over-written, dripping with largely pointless descriptions and flowery language, even though the descriptions were certainly colourful. I… wasn’t really wrong. But the characters caught my interest quickly enough to keep me slogging through it.

In terms of flaws, the book has many. The author is definitely excited to show us the world they have created, and even though it’s described well it becomes almost tedious to realize you’re about to take an aside to wade into ANOTHER section where a dozen new settings and concepts will be introduced before we can get on with it. Too many times I was really into a sequence, and then it was like “And now, an interlude to introduce some backstory:” and I was like “Welp, I guess that’s enough reading for tonight.” It was irritating and made the book take much longer to read through.
Honestly though, I tried to think of better ways to do it and I can see why it was done this way. We take interludes to introduce Locke’s past and how he got to know the things he knows, right before stepping back into the present to watch him use that knowledge in the current scenario. Apart from creating a prequel series to introduce everything (which only your die-hard readers will probably read), or creating a Tolkein-esque encyclopedia of worldbuilding (which ONLY your die-hard readers will read, guaranteed. I don’t like it when a series requires a wiki to understand…), both of which then distance the link from the current plot… the back and forth time-skipping seems like a decent option, though I’m a ‘chronological’ sort of girl so I feel like I’d probably have preferred starting at Locke’s childhood and reading a book or two about that before getting to here.

There’s also the issue of a few ‘foreshadowy’ sort of pieces that annoyed me. There are a lot of different elements of the world that are introduced that end up having no bearing on the current plot whatsoever. That actually didn’t annoy me SO much, because it served as a sort of obfuscation that aided the plot in this case. There’s a little thing called Chekov’s gun that, when followed to the letter, ends up being a GREAT BIG REALLY OBVIOUS SIGNAL to the reader when something is introduced and you’re like “uh huh, well, that’s what’s going to happen.” and then oh look, guess what the big twist in the story is later! This book introduced so many little details that you have no idea what’s going to be important or not, and that WORKS for it because of the nature of the plot.
But then there are other little bits, like long-winded descriptions of things that don’t matter a goddamn bit when you’re busy trying to get things underway, or characters that are continually talked about and then never actually introduced, complete with vague lines like “She’s off doing whatever it is I told her to do.” That’s just a really obvious attempt at hand-waving. When things are getting lengthy and wordy and you find yourself flailing your hands around that much to avoid getting into details, just do us all a favour and don’t mention it at all.

The plot, though. “Clever” stories like this require a fair amount of plotting skill to pull off believably and boy did it impress me there. I thought I caught a continuity error or two but I actually wasn’t entirely sure, and I was so busy enjoying it that I didn’t even care. The details finally come together at the end and leave you satisfied. The characters, too, are all lively enough that you get attached to them, and they all have believable flaws. That’s the real trick with a plot like this: the protagonists aren’t infallible gods of perfection who have everything under control at all moments. These guys are getting themselves eyeballs-deep in shit at every turn through their own fuck-ups, and then using their wits to pull themselves back out of it. Sure there’s a few flashes of plot-armor, in that you ASSUME the title character will probably make it out of this alive even if it seems a bit dicey right now… but even then the body count is high enough that you’re never entirely sure what might happen.

I’m going to launch straight into the next book in the series and see what’s next. It’s a solid 4.5/5, and if it could stop being so goddamn long-winded it would be an easy 5.

Advertisements

Into the Forest

(Not to be confused with “Into the Woods” which is a very different sort of movie.)

This is a movie that really makes you think.  But not in a good way…

This review is going to contain a lot of spoilers but it’s okay because if you’re watching this movie, it’s for the acting and emotional impacts. Not the plot.

I picked this one up because I was in the mood for a post-apoc tale (preferably about a virus since we’re dealing with household illnesses right now and it would be thematic) but, alas, it would appear that I have seen literally every post-apocalyptic movie ever made.  Even the bad ones.  But then “Into the Forest” scrolled past and I went “close enough.”

“Into the Forest” is a post-apocalyptic (sort of) tale about two sisters who are staying at a remote forest cabin with their father when a severe power outage strikes the world. Instead of a chilling tale of virus contagion, I got a tale of two teenage girls whining about the internet not working. Which, honestly, was still pretty entertaining, simply because it was so god damn realistic.

We really did enjoy it—for the most part—but it suffers mightily from “stupid decision syndrome”.  Not quite to the degree where you are yelling at the TV like “NO YOU IDIOT DON’T GO IN THERE YOU WILL DIE.  SEE I FUCKING TOLD YOU YOU WOULD DIE YOU FUCKING DESERVE TO DIE YOU FUCKHEAD” but more along the lines of “ALL of these problems could have been solved if you had taken a tiny little precautionary action eight months ago you dipshits >:(“.  Again: it’s pretty realistic!

Except it’s not.  Stupid character decisions aside… it suffers from a fair amount of bad writing.  More specifically, the movie really suffers from scaling issues.  Supposedly the movie is set in Canada, and the girls spend a lot of time talking about surviving the winter.  The movie spans at least 15 months of time, and not one single snowflake is to be seen, and the greenery never goes away.  Instead there are lots of idyllic berry picking scenes.  The cedars and rain suggest it was located on the west coast, where sure there’s less winter than some places in Canada, but you’d definitely have a few more hardships and a lot more issues with cold than were depicted here.  Worse, they’re living in a modern upscale cabin (with all kinds of electronic gadgets that don’t work anymore!) with a few initial shots of a tarp on the roof to establish that there is some patching that needs to be done, and it goes from that to mold infested and literal beams rotting and collapsing in less than a year.  And it didn’t even have to deal with the weight of snow at all! Apparently it was built with paper mache, which was a bad decision for the west coast of Canada. (Meanwhile, they are still driving a 1995 Jeep Cherokee which is as bombproof as ever.  Oh but for the glory days of Jeep to return…)  If the movie had scaled the timeline up a bit this could have been a bit more believable, but it’s even more annoying that the girls take the time to research topics like in-depth nutrition and “DIY abortion” but not flip a few pages over to look under “Carpentry”.  It’s not like they didn’t have enough fucking wood, and even cedar for shingles!

And then there’s the ending.  So the house rots and collapses around them and they decide “let’s waste the last of our gas to burn it down” for… reasons.  Their logic is explained in the movie but I was still kind of like “…what?”  I mean sure don’t live in the mold infested pile of rot but the gas has a lot of value and you could still store the goddamn books and supplies and shit in… nevermind.  Then they move into a hollow tree stump with a shard of plastic for a roof annnnnnd fin.
I think the intent is to suggest they go back to their ancestral roots and live happily ever after, foraging off the land and enjoying each other’s company as they live out the rest of their lives in symbiosis with nature (hence: ‘into the forest’ see?  Get it??).  In reality, there probably should be a footnote after the credits saying “And then they died.”  Because, yeah.  You don’t just burn down your shelter then wander off into the forest and live in a stump at the onset of winter.  Not even the winter that exists in this world where it just rains and then you go pick some blueberries.  I don’t care how fucking resourceful you are.  If you can’t even be bothered to patch your goddamn roof, you’re not going to make it through a winter in a stump with a newborn baby.

Bitching aside, the REST of the movie was pretty decent.  The acting was great, and the two girls really hit off each other for some high emotional notes.  There aren’t many tense moments or suspense like might expect from most post-apoc stuff, and the worldbuilding is pathetic at best (nothing is explained, and seriously, if the entire world can be fucked for over a year if not permanently by a single power grid failure then the future is pretty dumb), but the emotional moments are A+.  So it’s kind of a girly post-apoc film, I guess.  If that appeals to you, by all means check it out, as long as you are wary of stepping in pits of dumb decisions, bad worldbuilding, and lengthy interpretive dance scenes.

Crow Lake

Crow LakeCrow Lake by Mary Lawson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book. It did an excellent job of tackling themes of trauma and abuse, and I felt the characters were portrayed very realistically.

I did a quick browse through the negative reviews and the majority of them mentioned that it was too slow. It is certainly guilty of that, but I feel the short nature of it helps to make up for it. I never felt like it was slogging on. There were plenty of points where it sort of meandered through a side story and you were like “This is all very interesting, but what is the point?” and then you get to the end and go “Ah. I see.” I felt like it all tied up at the end, although maybe lacking the ‘punch’ a lot of readers might have expected after all the foreshadowing hints that were dropped.

I did get a little annoyed by all the breadcrumb hints about “events to come”. Those are always meant to hook the reader and keep them going with a promise of something big later, and to a degree they work, but it feels cheap and sets up a book to be underwhelming. This book could definitely be accused of that, but I enjoyed the characters enough that I didn’t penalize it.

The other major criticism of the book is that the main character is unlikable and dense. If you’re holding that against this book, I’m afraid you’ve missed the point. The problem is, I think, that these characters will appeal a GREAT DEAL to people who can relate to them – that is, those who have felt snippets of how that sort of trauma can affect your personality, your worldview, and how you react to others. Everyone else will be stumbling along wondering why the characters are acting so strangely, perhaps because they’ve never been unfortunate enough to experience those sorts of emotions and mental states themselves. There are so many powerful scenes in this book that spoke to me because I know exactly how those characters were feeling as they acted that way. I could feel what they felt. It was beautifully executed.

I suspect this sort of book will not be ‘for’ everyone. It was definitely ‘for’ me, and I loved it.