Wednesday, September 19, 2012
A slow start-up before the jump to lightspeed
I think what had me worried for the first hundred pages or so was that I felt as though I were sitting in a Rogue Squadron Historical Lecture. For pages and pages, Corran whines about Jace Bror and his ego. I can't think of a single time I actually had any proof of his ego being problematic until the post-battle party on Talasea when he tries to bully Gavin Darklighter into being his helper monkey. I actually lost quite a bit of faith in Corran as a result. I don't like being dictated to by the narrative; it makes me contrary. So when Corran kept insisting that Jace Bror was arrogant and egotistical, but without any actual substance to back it up, I thought, "Uh, what's wrong with CORRAN?" Some writers deliberately use a forceful narrative to allow for dramatic irony - showing the true nature of a character through that character's forceful manipulation of the narrative (perfect example: Mrs. Bennett in "Pride and Prejudice"). Michael A. Stackpole doesn't seem to be doing that, though - he seems to expect his reader to take his narrative at face value, which is a shame.
Having said that, I'm now halfway in and feel like I'm at last getting to the good stuff. I'm not sure if it's like Rose said, and Stackpole just needed to get himself set up for the good stuff or whether he'll backslide, but I'm appreciating certain elements of the plot quite a bit. For one thing, I really appreciate Kirten Loor. When he was first trotted out as the bad guy, I thought, "Geez, this guy's pathetic." But the more I read, the more I'm intrigued. Here's a villain who's far from perfect - his arrogance turns him into such a pathetic figure that his prisoner mocks him to his face. He's shipped off to Coruscant, presumably for execution, and instead gets a chance to learn from his mistakes. It's clear he is and what I enjoy as the reader is watching him learn. A villain who can learn is one I want to read more of.
Then there're the moments of truly excellent writing. The description of Ysanne Isard was impressive. The narrative didn't need to force me to see it, although it tried once or twice (come on, really?: "He knew where menace dwelt within her" . Unnecessary coaxing, narrative!). There were little moments, like Loor's description of "Isard's predatory pacing" and the color of her eyes ("one icy blue - as cold as Hoth" and "the other eye ... a molten red" ). I was also impressed by Stackpole's description of the space Isard uses: "The only thing the room seemed rich in was wasted space. Then it struck him. On a world that is so crowded ... wasting this amount of space is the height of luxury" (121).
More importantly, there're the moments when Loor begins realizing important things about himself: "What I had seen as my brilliance in ferreting out [Gil Bastra's] errors had been him playing to my sense of superiority, leading me on after him like a nerf eager for slaughter" (125). While the narrative does lay on the revelation a bit thickly, it also commits the character Kirten Loor to a set of superior skills, creating a paradox between characteristics like his almost-perfect memory and the arrogance that blinds him to the ploys of his enemies. To me, at least, he's very compelling for his flaws because they soften his abilities into something more three-dimensional.
Also, I want to see Mirax Terrik again!