Hello everyone! This week’s post comes a day later than usual, since my work schedule was switched around. Why you ask? Well, I’m graduating on Friday! Having achieved First Class Honours, I couldn’t really miss my own graduation ceremony could I?
I also wanted to let you all know that I’ll be changing my update schedule to be fortnightly instead of weekly. This is mostly due to my own personal schedule needing a bit of a reshuffle; this way I can still update here, still focus on the content, and not feel stressed out if I need to change my work pattern.
So last time I went into Waterstones, I did my customary thing of picking up yet another book. I’m not sure if it’s a ‘house style’ shop thing from their head office that determines what books are on the central tables in each section of Waterstones, but either way, Poison City caught my eye on the shelves of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror section. I got home and pushed it onto my ‘to read’ shelf. But I’ve done a stupid thing and landed myself with a LOT of heavy reading – Dune, Brave New World, Lolita… that sort of thing. Very literary. Sometimes hard to motivate myself to continue reading each one, as I’m not quite at the meaty parts yet.
I thought I’d treat myself – I’ve got a lot of books waiting on that shelf ready for my holiday in September. Poison City, once I’d started it, was one of those books I really wish I’d saved for my holiday ( although I read it in about 5 days, on and off). That’s a good thing – if something is crap but has my attention long enough to make me want to at least finish it, I’ll sit down all afternoon and finish it off. Poison City had in a steadfast grip and wouldn’t let go. I really wanted to plough through it, but at the same time, I wanted to stretch out the experience.
What score does this book get? 3/5 from me. But I sound so positive about it! Yes, I am positive about it. But there are a few things which sway my opinion on this.
The blurb doesn’t make it sound that interesting, really – but the first three chapters are awesome. The first third of this book is polished, fast paced – and the pace never lets up through the entire thing. Unfortunately it’s quite badly edited (e.g. I don’t know if ‘thirty feet drop’ is the U.S English way of saying ‘thirty foot drop’ but it was a glaring error to me which should’ve been picked up by the editor or the author and neither spotted it. Along with some early typos and tense issues, if this had been a crap book I would’ve slung it into my charity shop bag for the next time I’m down at Oxfam.
But… it’s really good. It’s not often I find something that is very originally imaginative; taking fantasy elements from other cultures rather than European myth and legend was refreshing. I loved the setting. The writing was evocative and descriptive. Crilley can do action sequences very well. He also does a great job of getting the mood and tone right of his scenes.
Where he falls down is his characterisation. My favourite was Armitage – whose fate is already spoiled for everyone in the blurb. But although she was from Yorkshire (score!) and had a great personality evoked through her use of certain phrases and dialectal markers, she suffered much the same as everyone else; a bare bones background not really revealed or developed at all. I would’ve loved to know more about Parker, Jaeger and whatsherface.
The main character Gideon Tau doesn’t ever really evolve beyond his one motivation. Granted, it’s a big motivational force, and there are plenty of obstacles thrown into his way, but at times it got a little irritating for me. I’m a fan of the detective genre, but I’m not so much a fan of “find clue, go to this person, they need something from you, go to do that for them, pay the price, find another clue…”. I’m not sure whether it’s my background in gaming, but it felt very MMO fetch quest. Nonetheless, I appreciated the mentions of lesser-known gods and immortals and legendary creatures when they showed their faces in this labyrinth of clues.
Crilley has, in this book, a strange habit of describing something foul, but then at other times, pulling the punches. He never quite gets to the point where it’s subtle enough – either he’ll dangle a thread and never give you anything to chew on, or he’ll mention it and then a page later tell you exactly what it is you wanted to know. His show/tell skill isn’t the most skillful; I found myself groaning a lot when he was TELLING us a lot of what his characters were feeling or looked to be feeling. I stuck with it, because the plot was quite interesting. Near to the end though, I found myself thinking, “did Crilley know where this was going or could he just not make up his mind?”. There’s a lot of backwardsing-and-forwardsing and cliches, but some of the twists do make up for it – even if they had me groaning and holding my head in my hands at times.
It all goes very biblical, so if you’re not a fan of having your religion criticized, this is not the book for you (but remember, it’s only fiction!).
So, yeah, overall I give this 3/5. It’s a great modern fantasy detective novel. I’m just not sure that if you start to peel back the wallpaper you’re not going to see the cracks and the mould.