01.18.2011

The Lies of Locke Lamora

I picked up, at my favorite place, the used bookstore in town, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I had seen it recommended on a book forum and it was super cheap, so I decided, why not?

I was completely conflicted for the first couple hundred pages or so. Locke wasn’t doing himself any favors with me by not convincing me that he had some sort of moral compass. See, I knew that the book was about a thief, but I do like my outlaws to have some sort of inner guidance and loyalty. I believe so deeply that humanity is innately moral, despite the fact that we hardly agree as to what morality we all should follow, that to encounter a person so devoid leaves me feeling in the company of something inhuman and unpleasant. Happily, for all involved, Locke disabuses me of my notions of his character. Oh, he’s still a slippery bugger as one of the Gentlemen Bastards, but he’s got his brother bastards to keep him human.

Now, as to general story construction, I’ve got a few words. I really did like the nonlinear style of the story, which is unusual for me. However, it was done in such a way as to allow you to more completely understand the actions, the motivations and the thought processes of the Gentlemen Bastards, particularly Locke’s. The Gentlemen Bastards are men of the underworld, but to see their lives as boys, tossed into the life like so much flotsam and, then, carefully selected to be taught how to thumb their noses at the whole world, was extraordinarily empathetic.

I also rather enjoyed his universe, but I will admit that I mostly liked it because it generally lacked all the things that often annoy me in fantasy. I did not have to learn an extensive vocabulary to understand half of what was said. Most of the names and place-names were not irritatingly difficult to say. I didn’t need a map and a diagram to understand locations and relationships. There wasn’t an excessive amount of time spent describing who, what, when, where, why and how of the different customs, technology and whatever else that authors regularly think that I want to know about, which just interferes with the story telling.

My biggest complaint is this: the language was foul. Now, I know that I have several things that make my objection seem ridiculous and petty. Yes, it is a book about the criminal underground and I know what the likelihood of men who participate in its doings curbing their raw language is. Yes, I’m also completely aware of my own hypocrisy on the issue…better than you do, in my ordinary life I’ve turned the air blue often enough. Yes, I know that he’s describing a filthy, cramped city and its denizens. Ugh, but did Lynch have to search for the nastiest turn of phrase every time?! Can’t urine be urine sometimes instead of piss?

Anyway, overall? Pretty good. I heard there are sequels. Might even read them, despite my usual distaste for series.

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