Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Familiarity Breeds Content(ness)

Series... the written equivalent to television.  It's not a perfect analogy of course, but they both, after a while, mostly hold my interest because I'm attached to the characters.  I'm not a plot fanatic in the first place, but when it's the same people over and over, I start to care about even the less likeable/entertaining ones.  And of course, that's what series writers depend on - the plot can be the same, slightly altered, or different but less spectacular, we probably aren't paying much attention.  Why the philosophical meandering, you ask? I have just (or not just, last Shabbos and I already have another review besides this) finished Gail Carriger's *4th* Parasol Protectorate novel, Heartless - 4th in asterisks because I reviewed all three previous ones on this blog, all in the past year (well, almost, I just checked and the first one was reviewed last July).  I waited quite a while for this, since for some reason the NYPL waited a full month! to order it (I find the NYPL to be greatly inferior to BCPL, despite my early excitement).  And by the time I got it, I had just finished Winter's Tale, so I was certainly ready for some good, predictable fluff.

Now we're holding by #4 in the series, so one thing that cannot be expected is good romance.  I mean, some angst maybe, but it's not mandatory - if I'm reading it, I'm hooked enough to get by without it (probably, anyway :)) The hook here has become increasingly comedy - very little romance, a setting removed from the actual historical one I would find more interesting, and a lot of danger and fighting not holding much attraction for me.  The comedy isn't bad though - there might have been a few lol moments, and, throughout, all drama, pathos, suspense, frenzied action were handled with a light touch.  Here and there, I could tell she (Ms. Carriger) was getting a little too pleased with her clever turns of phrase, but the writing was mostly just tongue-in-cheek enough. In any case, in accordance with my opening tangent, the book didn't even need to be that funny.  Alexia, Lord Maccon, Lord Akeldama, Professor Lyall, Madam Lefoux, etc. are funny because they are familiar.  You know how friends amuse you simply by being themselves? Okay, maybe I don't feel *that* much affection for them.  But with the book itself striving for the lightest of tones, it helps that the characters are utterly predictable, utterly themselves, and we know nothing too suprising is going to jump out of the box.  And since I wasn't looking for surprises, getting what I expected was good.

Don't get me wrong, there were some "revelations" - about which, seriously,  Professor Lyall too? But whatever, I guess he was due for a little fleshing out.  And at least he remains his ever-capable self.  Madame Lefoux, on the other hand, emerges a little tarnished, and Biffy, we already know, had his powers stripped by the previous book.  Lord Akeldama is mostly holding steady, Floote's going strong, Alexia herself has her moments, and so does Lord Maccon.  I have to say, I sound very lackluster about it all - that's partially due to my current tired state, for sure.  I enjoyed the book well enough, and it's not like I enjoyed any of them that much.  This one was up to par in terms of comic content, and, more importantly, comic tone (not taking itself seriously).  That's really all there is to say, I don't know why I just wandered off in all directions for the past three paragraphs.

Verdict: 3/5

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