Thursday, January 18, 2007

Glassy-eyed Chunkster reading

I've finished one of the books on my Chunkster list -- The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. I really don't know what to say about this hard-to-categorize novel with the unwieldy title. I found it an entertaining light read, though due to that very lightness, the 700+ pages could have been cut to something more along the lines of 400. It is a quasi-Victorian, Gothic, Adventure, Science Fiction story written by a man who has previously written plays and produced small films. It shows; the book is full of 'action sequences' and visual images you can imagine on-screen via computer animation. I don't quite get the write-ups that describe it as "darkly erotic". I don't really consider ladies of the evening prancing about in silk underclothes in front of one way mirrors "darkly erotic", but maybe it's a man thing. Anyhow, though the execution sometimes falters, the plot is vastly creative and original. An evil cabal with the alchemical power to turn dreams and memories into blue glass, oh yes, and plans for world domination, are brought to their knees by the fumbling and originally unplanned actions of three outsider individuals. These three are: Miss Celeste Temple, recently cruelly jilted by one of the newest Cabal members; Cardinal Chang, a hired assassin who unwitttingly gets mixed up in the middle of things by a client; and Doctor Svenson, nursemaid to a Germanic princeling. I found Miss Temple annoying at times, and not fully believable (especially when she's delightedly admiring herself in her aforementioned silk underclothes, in a strange and unknown house, while sinister masked women & men are lurking outside the room -- and she knows this). But I read on while all three developed into startlingly competent co-conspirators. After about the sixth capture, near death and miraculous escape, I gave up rolling my eyes and just gave myself over to the graphic-novel style exploits. It was entertaining, and I loved the character of Dr. Svenson. His progression from meek though spying employee to ruthlessly efficient killing machine was well done. If this were made into a movie, which I have no doubt it will be, I don't really care who plays the others, but I see Paul Bettany as the moral Doctor who bows to cruel necessity and saves the day, over and over and over. Overall, a fun read, but too long. It would have benefitted from a little of the ruthless cutting down that most of the characters suffered.
Warning to all Black Adder fans: Dahlquist must use the word "cunning" fifty times in the first chapter. Beware of letting Baldrick colour the character of Miss Temple!

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