Sentences are “constructed funny” and I had to adapt to them before I could really dig into the story; still, here and there some convoluted ones made me hesitate, momentarily losing the story. This continued throughout. And this was the first book I’ve read that has – unsuccessfully, I feel – made references to science fiction and science fiction authors. Heinlein, Stapledon, Doc Smith, others. This doesn’t work for me. Referencing other stories and pointing out they are not real reminded me this story wasn’t real: that jarred me out of the story. Lastly, character development? Nil. And at times, even worse – stereotypes with a hint of racism. And sex scenes seem to be tucked in here and there for no reason whatsoever other than to meet a quota!
Still. The story, when it let me reside within it, when the characters didn’t boot me out, was fabulous. Killer ideas and concepts stacked deep, killer images and imagery, and great starts for characters both female and male. (Welsh characters, too, albeit stereotypically alcoholic.) The alien felinoid Tigerishka is absolutely marvelous, a kick to read about, and as an added bonus, shows more character growth than the rest of the cast in its entirety.
Altogether, this is a journey of ideas, and a cobbling of amazing imagery. It could easily be expanded upon. You can point to this story and emphatically say “This is science fiction!” It is also the first book that I’ve read on my list that would truly adapt to an excellent movie. (I love science fiction with all my heart, but it does not often translate well into movies. This one could, with some character tuneups. I could do it.)
Both Leiber and Lafferty named characters after themselves in their book – a Fritz and an Aloysius. Leiber, like Joe Haldeman, named the primary woman character Margo, after his second wife. I have to respect that level of comfort in writing. It says to me, “This book is a living creation, not yours, mine.” I would like to reread a book by Leiber that I have always considered a favorite, Conjure Wife, and perhaps some others of his. (I did read Grey Mouser when I was quite long. I think it was the first book with sexual activity in it that I remember, coincidentally. Which, given my age at the time, I misunderstood.) Also, as an aside, I have got to stop flipping through books to see what happens because I’m too excited about the story. It caused me problems with this one, as well as with Fourth Mansions. Stop doing that!
Oh, and London perishes again. This time, in tidal floods and tsunamis.
Stereotypes and lack of character development – bad. Creating stunning imagery that tickles your imagination and has poetic resonance – good. It makes me wonder. Working with Arwen, she is very much a character-developer. Me, I already know that I work with images, scenes – which is why I loved them so much in this book. I bet I need to work on character development and growth myself.