Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006, Bantam Books)

While I am a huge fan of fantasy literature, sometimes all the elves, dragons, and wizened old wizards can become a sort of Gandalfian test pattern. So it's always nice to find a well-written non-Tolkien fantasy novel.

Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora is among the best of this genre. Though it is built upon such solid foundations as Robert Aspirin and Lynne Abbey's Thieves' World anthologies, Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar novels, a bit of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, and some Charles Dickens for good measure, Lynch's work is definitively of his own making.

The sprawling city of Camorr, built upon the elderglass ruins of an ancient and mysterious civilization, owes much to medieval and renaissance Italy – for instance, the fact that the city is criscrossed by many canals and waterways. The thieves and ruffians of Camorr, united under the powerful and clever Capa Barsavi, have come to a lucrative and well-balanced Secret Peace with the constabulary and nobility of the city.

Into this city is born Locke Lamora, a boy with a knack for getting into trouble. Orphaned at an early age, Locke is taken in and raised by the Gentleman Bastards, the smallest gang in Camorr. As he grows, Locke eventually takes leadership of the gang, spinning con after con designed to secretly flaunt the Secret Peace. When a mysterious assassin, known only as the Gray King, begins a systematic execution of the Capa's men, Locke and his Gentleman Bastards find themselves juggling an ever-growing number of schemes, each more desperate than the last, hoping the entire thing doesn't collapse around them.

The best thing about The Lies of Locke Lamora is that it's the first book fo a series. So if you're looking for a great fantasy novel that isn't just more of the same old elves, dragons, and wizards, give it a read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Author's Website

Pattern Recognition and Spook Country

Pattern Recognition and Spook Country by William Gibson (2003 and 2007, Putnam Publishing Group)

A little over twenty years ago, William Gibson changed the face of science fiction literature, quickly becoming one of the premier authors of what came to be known as the "cyberpunk" genre. While many before had written predictive tales of what may come to pass, Gibson and his contemporaries did it in a very timely and stylish way.

Now that we are well entrenched in the twenty-first century, reality has had a chance to catch up to Gibson's future. Pattern Recognition and Spook Country are both set in the current day, which is every bit as eerie as Gibson's former vision.

Pattern Recognition is the story of Cayce (pronounced "Case") Pollard, whose allergic sensitivities to corporate trademarking make her a freakishly accurate divining rod for product trends. What starts out as a typical job for an advertising consultancy called Blue Ant rapidly turns into a hunt for the source of a series of internet video clips that has created its own subculture. The investigation leads to various stops around the world, and keeps Cayce constantly questioning everyone's motives, including her own.

Spook Country is the interwoven tale of three main characters: Hollis Henry, a former goth rocker turned freelance journalist who is working for a magazine which may or may not exist, but is most assuredly a subsidiary of a corporation called Blue Ant; Tito was born in Cuba before he came to New York and took up his waiting life in a shadowy criminal family trained by ex-KGB operatives; Milgrim is an addict of anxiety drugs whose life has been taken over by a man who may or may not be working for the government. As the stories begine to intertwine, everyone begins to feel the paranoia of living in a culture where consumer technology is strangely analogous to intelligence tech. Hollis' investigation of a new form of art combining virtual reality and GPS technology leads to a secret cargo container that has been circling the globe for years. As the container nears port, the players come together, both behind the scenes and through numerous catspaws, for something big.

While not directly linked in story, both novels take place in the same present day world, with Blue Ant and it's corporate powerhouse (the unlikely-named Hubertus Bigend) tying together secrets and conspiracies. If Gibson's past patterns hold true this time around, we can expect his next book to be the glue to the trilogy, bringing characters and plots together for something mind-blowing.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars each

Author's Website