Friday, November 5, 2010

I'm reading Tim Powers' DECLARE, a strange fantasy novel about shifting alliances among spies in a world where supernatural entities exist. It's interesting to think about because it's generally hard to figure out what the hero wants. There's a love story. And he's a dedicated spy trying to infiltrate ... something ... but the story unfolds in back-and-forth time -- 1948, then 1963, then 1941, then 1945, then 1963 again. And it changes main characters halfway through. I don't know what the stakes are.The hero is a bit of cipher, as spies sometimes are. What am I rooting for?

In other words it bends all sorts of narrative rules and even arguably breaks some.

Somehow it gets away with it. I'm not sure why I keep reading it, but I do. Maybe because I want to find out what the supernatural powers are, and what exactly happened on Mount Ararat in 1948.

I want to get to the bottom of the mystery. That must be it.

I started Charles Stross's MERCHANT PRINCES series but got bored halfway through book one. I'm a big fan of his SF work, but this was cheesy fantasy. Not for lack of story elements. The heroine was clearly drawn. I knew what she wanted. I knew what danger she was in. There was an interesting parallel universe story going. But there was nothing mysterious about it; unlike in Roger Zelazny's AMBER series, by which the Merchant Princes series is loosely inspired. So I didn't care.

I tries to give THE CIRCLE CAST both: a coherent story, and a mystery. You may judge how well I did.



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