Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Infernal Devices and Hype

I marked this as did not finish a few nights ago, and then I looked at how many books I had marked "DNF." Shamed, I woke up my Kindle once more and attempted to keep going.

I should have listened to my gut.

For most of my life, even if I hated a book, I would read it. The whole goshdurned thing. Then I would say, "THAT WAS SO AWFUL WHAT A WASTE OF MY TIME NGHAAAH!" or some such incoherent gabbling indicative of anger. Strangely enough, when I started working in a library, I started abandoning books with abandon! Originally, it was almost a moral issue for me, i.e. "Well, I started it, so in order to be fair and just to the author, I must finish it." Then I saw how many new books we received every week (I worked at a branch library then), and I saw the plethora of books already on the shelves, and my strange compulsion to finish books slowly died away. I couldn't possibly read all of those books, and even if I tried, I wouldn't like many of them. Then, I went to library school, where we learned a bit of theory (yes, Virginia, there is Library Theory for us library folk). We learned S.R. Ranganathan's 5 Laws of Library Science:

1. Books are for use.
2. Every reader his [or her] book.
3. Every book its reader.
4. Save the time of the reader.
5. The library is a growing organism.
S.R. RanganathanRanganathan approves of my logic

So, 1-4 basically told me that I didn't have to like everything, because I wouldn't use what I didn't like, and I would be wasting time, because I was not the reader for the book, nor was the book for me. 

What's all this drivel got to do with Infernal Devices? Well, for one thing, you've just experienced the basic plot device of the novel, which generally consists of: What plot? Oh, that thing over there? *pokes with stick* Gee, it's pretty thin. Um, hey, look, it's a fish person!

Secondly, it's my personal justification for not finishing this.

As we all know by now, Jeter coined the term "steampunk." Hooray. Give the man a cigar! Elements that we've come to identify with steampunk--icons, if you will--are either absent or only very slightly present. For example, steampunk goggles are popular for various activities (riding in airships being the most practical use), and indeed one character I encountered (as far as I read) did have distinctive eyewear, but they were blue-tinted glasses. This is really more of a trippy quasi-Victorian mashup of detective story and Lovecraft. I mean, seriously, the inhabitants of Wetwick (Wetwickians???) come flopping straight out of "The Shadow over Innsmouth." The main character/narrator (whose name I already forget, except that he's a junior) is a bit of a Gary Stu. Things just happen to him, man! Like strange women from the future attempting the sexytimes! Like getting thrown into a river but somehow reviving! George! His name is George!

There were, I admit, some amusing parts. The whole scandal with the church (although I didn't read far enough to get the whole story), was pretty funny in a slapstick sort of way.

Um, I think that was actually the only funny part. George is pretty hopeless at everything. He has a job for which he's not qualified, he's kept on a man of questionable sanity as his valet/butlet/assistant, and he bestows exceptionally prosy monikers upon people he's met. For example, his first client, who has dark brown skin, becomes Brown Leather Man. What are you, like, two? Also: racism. Also, as noted in another review, the BLM speaks in anastrophe (i.e. Yoda-speak) which is not cool unless it's Yoda! George must repair a clockwork mechanism of his father's, but he has no skills in this area (I'm cutting to the chase, here), receives a strange coin from Brown Leather Man, is subsequently approached and then robbed by two ne'er-do-wells who are well versed in American slang, one of whom is a woman with a BOSOM (as women are wont to have) and who is determined to have the sexytimes with the main character.

NOTE: Let it be noted that I here went and read the Wikipedia entry on this novel and WOW that explains a LOT. Kind of. Go over there to read if you want to see what I mean.

Okay, back to the "story." I love madcap. I love it a lot. Bertie and Jeeves, anything by Jasper Fforde, screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s--those are all awesome! However, they also have plots and consistent humor. 

NOTE: I felt guilty. Again. So I went back to the book and skipped to the end. I have no words. I also now have no regrets about not finishing the whole thing. 

This is a case where the reputation of the book (first steampunk, etc.) is better than the actual book. For a much better steampunk, try the book of the same name (Infernal Devices) by Phillip Reeve. Actually the whole Hungry City Chronicles is worth a read--even though it's typically labeled YA. It's very mature and dark.

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