Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Against Nature absolutely captures the magic of the previous Faction Paradox books

Xicco, Lake Chalco (in case anyone was wondering).

Another review from the
Gallifrey Base forum, originally posted on the 29th April and reproduced here with kind permission of its author, Aaron George. There are some negatives, but nothing said which strikes me as being necessarily unjustified, and I'm hugely gratified that the novel still seemed to work for this reader despite his reservations:

I just finished this yesterday. I was planning on writing a long review like Humbert, but if I did, I think I'd harp on all of the things that I didn't like about it. And I hate those people who come on this forum to write big long posts about how terrible something is. It's a huge buzzkill, and it just stinks of venom. So here's what I'm going to say:

I was worried when Obverse took over the Faction Paradox license that we'd lose something that made Faction Paradox unique. I didn't have any reason to think this, it was just a general worry over change. And, as much as I liked Romance in Twelve Parts, it did feel very different. Each short story focused almost entirely on Faction Paradox, which was fine, but I always thought the magic of Faction Paradox was when it wasn't about Faction Paradox. This Town was a great book because it refused to be about the Faction, instead telling a unique story in the universe. Warlords of Utopia is the best thing Lance Parkin's ever written, and it didn't focus on the Faction at all, and Newtons Sleep, though it did have a large part for them, was wonderful because Daniel O'Mahony's characters, style and inventiveness was distinctive, unlike anything I'd seen before. So I'm happy to say that Against Nature absolutely captures the magic of the previous Faction Paradox books. It is exactly everything I want in this line, and it harkens back to the wonderful nature of This Town, combining creepy atmosphere with the idea that symbols reshape reality and the way something is said is often more important than what it says. So well done both to Lawrence and to Obverse.

Anyways, on the actual book: I love the plot. It's one of the most inventive plots I've ever read, and I love the ideas that went into it. And overall I liked the book. However, there were a lot of aspects of the book that made it very difficult to read, and I often felt like the writing of the book was preventing me from enjoying the book itself. I don't think Primo's a very good character, for instance, and I think that he really needed to be an audience identification figure. Moreover, while the Aztec words worked for Humbert, they really didn't for me. I would read a sentence that, for all intents and purposes read, xxxx walked up to the xxxx, his xxxx catching as he xxxx. xxxx knew that xxxx had told him of xxxx's xxxx four years ago, while xxxx was on the throne. To xxxx, this meant that xxxx was finally xxxx. It was xxxx. This may have been dismissible if that were only one of the threads of the book, but Primo loved throwing out these words too, and Emiousha's storyline had it's own words that just looked like Xs on a page. There are so many characters as well, so on top of not being able to picture anything because it's described using words I don't know, not being able to follow anything because it's using words I don't know, I also have to keep characters straight who all have names that look alike. My other problem with the writing is that for long, long swaths of the story, characters are sitting around talking to each other but not actually doing anything. This gets worse when characters like Primo and Momacani randomly figure out what's going on in the plot, for reasons I can't figure out, and then explain it to the reader through their internal monologue. That struck me as a little sloppy.

I'm sorry, it looks like despite my saying that I wouldn't harp on the negative, I did anyways. I want to stress that I do quite like the book. I love the ways that the book probably rewards future re-readings, and love how intricate everything is. So don't let my criticisms rain on the parade here.

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