Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Review: One Bronze Knuckle

One Bronze Knuckle One Bronze Knuckle by Kenneth Hunter Gordon
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

A book unfortunately very much in love with the sound of its own voice.

It is a smooth and competent voice, I have to say; I found only one error in the first third (which was as far as I read). It's rich prose; full of itself. It's an old-fashioned voice, because while it is ostensibly the voice of a character who sometimes appears in the book, its effect is that of an omniscient narrator - the bombastic kind of omniscient narrator who judges all the characters and occasionally addresses the reader directly.

It reminded me of Tristram Shandy, not only because of the voice, but also because it wanders and jumps about, seemingly randomly, in space and time and details the lives and backgrounds of every character in an extended family.

Unfortunately, unlike Shandy's eccentric relatives, this is for the most part a very dull family, and we're shown an external view of them that doesn't give us access to much of their inner life (if they have any). They live in a small, dull town where nothing much happens, and if there is a plot at all, it's deeply buried under a mass of discursive verbiage. We get long descriptions of everything and everyone with even the most passing connection to whatever the story is supposed to be. I have limited patience with an excess of exposition at the best of times, but when there's no discernible plot, and the people and places are not inherently very interesting, I quickly lose what patience I have. I did give it more time than the traditional 25% to stop introducing things and start developing them, but when nothing much had happened yet at 32%, I jumped to the end to see if it seemed to come to any kind of conclusion. As far as I could tell, it did not.

The setting is a timeless time and a placeless place; somewhere in Europe, sometime after California exists, but the town feels like an American small town: settled by a living person's great-grandfather, and with inhabitants whose names include Sullivan (Irish), Berger (Germanic), and several other names of diverse ethnic origin.

There's a self-proclaimed witch, and a prophecy, but (as far as I read) not very much else that justifies classifying it as SFF.

Some people, I know, are OK with masses of exposition and very little plot, although I believe they usually demand more character development than this book appears to offer.

Not for me, and perhaps not for many people. It's a pity, because the sentence-level writing is far above average; it's just that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

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