Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Miéville's Kraken & Hughes's Spiral Labyrinth

We’ve got two new reviews up at SFFWorld, one from me and one from the venerable Hobbit. Let’s start with his, shall we?

Mark beat me to the punch with China Miéville’s latest weird novel Kraken:

The books lengthy narrative involves a trawl through city alleys and derelict buildings and amongst the shady denizens of a historical urban environment – the Londonmancers, the god of the sea, and many that I hadn’t heard of. It is a tour-de-force of all things odd, from a skilful writer managing to keep many things spinning in the air at once.

Perhaps surprising to many will be the dark humour that diffuses throughout the novel. Though many of his books have it, the humour of Kraken is dark yet much more palpable. Could this be Mieville having fun? This is, in that respect, more like Un Lun Dun than The City and the City, though undeniably darker and most definitely adult.

For my part, I reviewed an entertaining novel by a seemingly underlooked SF&F writer, Matthew Hughes. The novel in question is the second featuring the ‘discriminator’ (private investigator) Hengis Hapthorn, The Spiral Labyrinth:

Set in a far future, the world and stories are a combination of many things, comedy, detective fiction, science fiction, and fantasy.
The plot itself is somewhat circuitous, but one might suspect as much from the title. Hughes clever hand for dialogue, and spare prose is quite effective. The humor comes through in Hapthorn’s reactions and his internal dialogue, both with himself and especially with his other personality Osk Reivor. Many similar hybrids of mystery and fantasy and/or science fiction employ banter between two characters – protagonist and sidekick let’s say. Brust does this exceptionally well with his Vlad Taltos novels in the dialogue between Vlad and his familiar Loiosh, Jim Butcher does it very well between Harry Dresden and Bob the Skull, so does Hughes with Hapthorn and Osk. This helps to progress the plot in an effective and entertaining manner.

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