Lynch, Scott: (01) Lies of Locke Lamora, The (re-read)

I know, I know, I just read The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. The thing is, when I was paging through it looking for quotes, I remembered how much I’d enjoyed the characters, and that I’d given a bit short shrift to the descriptions. (I usually re-read a book I’ve liked immediately, to better appreciate how it all fits together; but I didn’t do that here, because I felt that I had a good grip on the plot and I didn’t have time.) So I decided to bring it into work and re-read it over lunch. I wasn’t planning to booklog this re-read, except partway through a question hit me:

Why isn’t this being compared to Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series?

Okay, yes, it’s told in third omniscient not First Person Smartass, and it’s thicker, but otherwise, I think it has pretty similar minerals and vitamins (TM Teresa Nielsen Hayden). First and most obvious, there’s the organized crime: both protagonists start out in a Mafia-like organization (and the morality of that involvement gets raised to varying extents). Then there’s the setting and the history: non-medievaloid with a proportionate history; sophisticated cities; vanished alien races with lasting influences—Camorr is filled with Elderglass structures, indestructible by human means. (The history of the Eldren is not central to the series, according to the author.) There are smart, quick, clever characters with backstories, who get into serious trouble and make it out by the skin of their teeth through wild improvisation. And the books themselves are self-contained pieces of a larger character arc.

If you read the Vlad books solely for the narrative games, you won’t get that with Lies; but otherwise, fans of the Vlad books could do much worse than to check this out.

[I wrote this when our DSL was out and the only thing I had access to was the blurbs on the jacket copy (which, as Chad points out, are possibly not likely to compare the book to a series from another publisher—two other publishers, even). Google tells me that at least three people have made the comparison: Library Journal, in a review behind a paywall; Kenneth Hite, in a comparison mostly about the voice (and slightly disfavorable to the Vlad Taltos series); and C.M. Morrison at Strange Horizons, who appears to have hated the book so much that she went out of her way to spoil the ENTIRE FLIPPIN’ THING in her review. Obviously I neither agree with nor recommend that last. But, since I went to the trouble of writing this, I’m posting it anyway. So there.]

6 Comments

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  1. Lies reminds me more of Rabelais and Brust of Dumas, though there’s some overlap.

  2. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through the Lynch book, and I don’t really think that it stands up to a comparison with Brust. The former is considerably less witty (which is fair enough perhaps, given that Lynch is less experienced as a writer), but also a little shallow and self-satisfied. But perhaps that’s just me.

  3. Sherwood: my knowledge of Dumas is limited to reading _The Three Muskeeters_ and saying, “You know, I like Paarfi better,” so I will bow to your superior knowledge.
    Henry Farrell: I’m not sure if that’s just a style critique or not. I don’t have the best ear for style, but if it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t work for you.
    Have you read _Dzur_ yet?

  4. I wouldn’t have thought to compare it to Brust because I wasn’t vaguely dissatisfied by the end of it. I think Brust is technically superior but I enjoyed the Lynch more than recent Vlad offerings.

  5. This is not a complete answer but it’s what came to mind instantly: Lynch’s book did not bring Brust to mind, because Lynch wrote a Team Book. It’s all about the team; it switches viewpoints between them. The team is the great joy of the book. (It gains impact thereby when SPOILER.)
    Brust doesn’t write about a team. He writes about Vlad. Vlad has allies and friends, but they aren’t his team. (Loiosh is a sidekick, which is different.)
    This is overwhelming enough a difference that it obviates any comparison, in my mind.

  6. Andrew: That’s a very interesting observation, and I think I see how it works at the extremes, but I’m having a bit of trouble finding the bright line. Would you consider Westlake’s ‘Dortmunder’ stories to be about Dortmunder (and his allies and colleagues), or about Dortmunder’s Team? Or neither?

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