15 March 2015

Books: Red Seas Under Red Skies By Scott Lynch (2007)

There was a Friends episode where Rachel and Joey go on a boat ride round New York. Joey, of course, wants to have fun. But Rachel, who had to deal with her father's anal retentiveness about the rules of boating, forces Joey to actually learn things no one cares about when actually, you know, boating. 
This was what drove me crazy in Scott Lynch's follow up to The Lies of Locke Lamora. It appears that Mr. Lynch got Rules for Old Timey Wimey Ships for Christmas and decided to spend a good majority of Red Skies Under Red Seas informing the reader every detail about those ships. Listen, if I want to learn about masts, waists -those names for everything- I would take a class, read up on it on Wikipedia and then go to town. Here, it becomes a dull class at the College Resource Center. 
The book is structured oddly as well, opening with a scene extracted from late in the book. I'm unsure why Mr. Lynch chose to do it this way, because it really does not impact the story in any sort of way when you get to that same scene some 470 pages later. Like the first book, this tale has chapters set in the present that is alternated with flashbacks. Again, this is was distracting (the beauty of novels over TV or movies is that they don't have to be told linear. But eventually Mr. Lynch abandons this conceit for no apparent reason, which made me wonder why he used this plot ploy to begin with). So in the end, I think the book would've worked better if told in chronological order instead of the bothersome narrative of flashbacks.  
So Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean arrive on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can't rest for long -and are soon back to what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves. This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele — and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior... and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house's cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire. Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors... straight to Requin's teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb -until they are closer to the spoils than ever. But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo's secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough...
Still, despite Lynch spending so much time detailing every aspect of a ship, the book remains somewhat fun. But the there is nothing new here -a problem I've had with this genre for a while now. Yes the book shifts from a "caper" novel to Pirates of The Caribbean rather successfully, but in the end the ideas he presents here seem like many missed opportunities to take this genre into a new and exciting direction. 

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