I read this quite a while ago, probably when it hadn’t long been out. I subsequently forgot everything that happened in it, and all my thoughts relating to it, except “that was good”. All of the skills, here. So I thought I’d reread it and try recall in what way it was good (and indeed, if I still thought so). Well, I definitely still think so.
Before I discuss anything else, the thing that sticks with me the most as one of Lynch’s successes is the pacing. tLoLL (I cannot be bothered to type it out every time) is beautifully, exquisitely paced. After the digression and hyperactive topic-hopping of I, Lucifer, the measured, controlled pace of tLoLL is completely appreciated. Not that I disliked how I, Lucifer was done, as I’m sure I made clear, but there’s only so much of that almost schizophrenic inability to stay on topic that I can take, and it brought the difference in Lynch’s style into sharp relief. I think I’d have noticed how well paced it was anyway, even if my previous book had been different, but context has made it all the more prominent. It manages to escape something I find mildly irritating in some books, where the whole thing comes together in a rush at the end, and suddenly the pace goes BOOM EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW ALL AT ONCE READ READ READ. It can be done well, but mostly… And, without spoiling anything, there is still very much a culmination of plot towards the end of tLoLL, but it doesn’t feel sped (or is it “speeded”? I can never remember) up. A lot happens… and it remains sensibly paced and wonderfully described. I closed the book with a genuine sigh of pleasure.
When I say a lot happens, I do mean it. It’s got an awful lot of flashbacks interspersed within the main narrative, and they’re all quite dense in information. Especially early on in the book, you have to try to figure out what on earth is going on for some of them. But it all pieces together very neatly as you progress, so by the time you finish, there’s an awful lot to make you go “oooh”. I think if I were to reread it again immediately, I’d suddenly see why certain flashbacks were positioned where they were, and I’d appreciate again just how well tLoLL is put together. It feels very much like it’d benefit from a reread.
The area where it doesn’t get universal praise from me, alas, is in the characters. You don’t get an enormous sense of them as really… people. Locke Lamora you get some (shocking, that… the main character having some development? Madness) but those around him… it’s bits and pieces rather than a developed whole. That said, the novel doesn’t really feel the lack of it. The Gentleman Bastards are con artists and confidence tricksters, and so it does seem almost appropriate that a group who make their living by flitting from character to character should be denied the writing of much character for themselves. Or that could just be me reading more meaning into a deficiency in the book than is merited. Either way, while it is a deficiency, it is not one keenly felt by the reader, and really doesn’t hamper the book as a whole. The narrative more than makes up for it.
One of the reasons I just bought the sequel on Amazon is not really related to any of these. What I really want is more of Lynch’s world-building. He paints an excellent picture with mere hints and suggestions, and I desperately want to know more and see more. He explains some of the things he gives us, but leaves others completely mysterious and it is damned frustrating in the best possible way. Even if the rest of what he’d done was awful, I think I’d read Red Seas Under Red Skies just for the subtle suggestions that build up a beautifully rich backdrop. Thankfully the rest isn’t awful, so I was entirely happy to give amazon five more of my pounds.
This is one of those books I think would appeal to most people, too. There’s nothing really about it I can see would put people off.