Friday, February 28, 2014

The Chemickal Marriage

Nearly seven years ago I read a book called "The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters" by G.W. Dahlquist, which is set in a semi-steampunk, Victorian-ish, alternate reality. That book is full of adventure, mystery, and quite a lot of sex. As I said at the time, I'd find it very hard to recommend that book to anyone because of what they might infer about me, but it was a rip-roaring romp which I enjoyed quite a lot. At the end of that book, there seemed to be a few lose ends of story not tied up, but the bulk of the story appeared to be done. 

 The sequel, in 2009, called "The Dark Volume" continued the story without really achieving much. I was hugely disappointed, as I blogged at the time

 And now the trilogy has come to an end with "The Chemickal Marriage". I approached it hoping that it would be as good as the first book, but fearing it would disappoint as much as the second. Indeed it sat, unread, on my Kindle for the best part of a year before I got around to reading it. Well, its somewhere in the middle between those two books, but sadly closer to the sequel than the original. 

The great success of the first book was the way the author spent the first half of the book teasing the reader with suggestions and tantalising hints about the nature of the mysterious 'process', and with teasing of an erotic nature too, and then spent the second half of the book slowly revealing details of the strange alchemy, and also occasionally revealing erotic stuff too. It was compelling, as a reader, to try and figure out what was going on with the politics, with the science, and with the sexual politics, and then have your suspicions confirmed, or more commonly overturned as the story unfolded. 

The main failing of the two sequels is that they don't really have anything to tease and tantalise the reader with. Sure, we find out a few new things about the properties of the glass, but really there seems to be no purpose behind most of the events and revelations. Stuff happens, more stuff happens, characters die, characters that you thought might be dead turn out not to be dead, and so on, but its really just a jumble of events occurring (oh, and there's quite a lot less sex). Fundamentally, I didn't really care what happened next, I only really wanted the story to make some sort of sense and come to some sort of conclusion. Eventually, it does. The trilogy appears to be over, and that's that. But getting there wasn't half as interesting as the first book. Not even a quarter as interesting.

One thing I noticed in here, which I can't remember noticing in the first two books, is the way in which the author seems to keep getting ahead of himself in the action sequences. Characters, who may have been left behind pages before suddenly reappear without warning and promptly change the way a fight is going, or equivalent. It seems the author is in such a hurry to relate events to the reader that he occasionally loses track of what he's trying to convey. After a while I got a bit fed up with this. The first book was all about anticipation, here we never got the chance to anticipate anything. Things just happened, event, event, rush, rush, rush, event.

Also, the author seemed to forget some of the things he factored in at the start of the book. Early on, Chang wakes from unconsciousness to discover that he's been operated on and has some form of implant on his spine. A chapter later Dr Svenson looks at this and is shocked, but the reader doesn't really find out why he's shocked, and then... the author forgets all about this and it doesn't feature in the story again. This happened to a few other plot points too.

Another annoyance was the way the author stuck to the same pattern as the first book. There are 10 long chapters, each focussed on one of the three main characters. This worked really well the first time about, but I have to say that I really lost interest in all the chapters about Dr Svenson here. I totally didn't care about his story arc.

I could moan about this book for ages, which would give the wrong impression. It wasn't bad. It was quite engaging and enjoyable at times, but it is not a worthy successor to the original.

I wouldn't bother if I was you. Just read the first book and move on.

I really hope G.W. Dahlquist writes a stand-alone novel next time. Tease, tantalise, hint, reveal, action, reveal, twist, end. That would be great.

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