Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Review: New Tricks

New Tricks
New Tricks by Sean Cox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really can't sum up this book any better than the author does himself, reflecting what his teacher self would say about it: "Good ideas, but the prose needs work."

Specifically, it needs approximately 125 classic editing errors fixed. They're all the usual suspects: lots and lots of homophones, pretty much all the possible apostrophe errors, occasional misplaced commas, two words where they should be one, and some straight-up typos. If I'd been playing Common Issues Bingo, I would have filled my card.

I do sometimes send authors lists of problems which I mark in my Kindle as I read - less as a service to them than as a service to my fellow readers - and I'm doing that this time as well, so if this review isn't recent when you read it the errors are probably gone by now.

Moving past that, what's the book like otherwise? Well, I've given it four stars, but for a long time it was looking like three. I was on the fence right from the sample, which has a lot of backstory given in tell-don't-show narration - backstory, what's more, for someone who turns out not to be the protagonist.

It's amusing, but I didn't laugh out loud. I may have snorted quietly once. Like a lot of humourous fantasy/SF, there's a great deal in it that doesn't attempt to make sense, or refers to cultural phenomena belonging to our culture rather than the ostensible setting. It's more satire than comedy, directed mainly at bad D&D games and the worse fantasy novels they spawn. I've played enough D&D to get the references, though under a good enough DM that I hadn't had the experiences. If you've never been into tabletop fantasy roleplaying or the novels that come out of it, you won't find this story very accessible.

If I was that lukewarm, why four stars? Well, it's really three and a half, rounded up. I did want to keep reading, despite the frequent errors, to find out what happened, because the protagonist is clever. He's a trickster, in fact, and I have a huge soft spot for good trickster characters. That with a very small humour bonus tipped it just over three and a half.

Senses of humour differ, of course, and you may roar with laughter over this, especially if you've played a lot of cliched games of D&D.

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