Friday, August 10. 2012
I've just finished a book that I'm not going to name. The reason I'm not going to name it is that I'm going to say some rude things about it - which to some extent I guess are the fault of the author, editor et al but they're not unique to this book. And, for added fun, once you get past the things that drove me mad about it, the actual story is pretty good. It's not a great work of literature but it is a good read.
The problem is the setting. The book is a sort of urban fantasy in steampunk clothes in a parallel London. This gives us access to wizards, dragons and the like, Jack the Ripper (he's at least hinted at), clockwork mechanical war machines and so on. This is, to my taste, all fine. Your tastes may run differently.
The problem is, as if the dragons, wizards and mecha weren't enough, we have Queen Vicitrix, St. Jemes, Mayefair and so on. Like if we read about Victoria being possessed by the actual spirit of Britannia trying to keep an ancient pact with dragons intact in St. James' Park we might get confused and think it's real history! Scatter in lanthorns rather than lanterns (it's a good archaic word for lantern, first recorded in the reign of King Alfred 871-899CE he was on the throne and the term was well gone by Victorian times) and other anachronisms and there were points I was ready to throw the thing across the room. Perhaps fortunately I was reading it on my iPad and resisted the temptation!
I realise this is a judgement call and these things may not be an issue for you. I assume they're not an issue for the American author and editor - an author many of whose books I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. Although the term uncanny valley is applied to simulated humans, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to use it here. If we'd had Queen Elspeth (even with a German consort, a controlling mother who was shunted aside when Elspeth married and so), hunting in St. Phillip's Park and so forth I'd have given this book unreserved praise. But each time I came across these, to my mind unnecessary, little twists I could feel my blood pressure rising.
So please, dear authors... make your parallel worlds different enough not to annoy people that are used to the real terms. Please! I assume this is part of a series - when the next book in the series is released it will be interesting to see which memory lingers - the good story or the annoying bad parallel-world-building.
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