December 21st, 2009

harlequin tin

The Mask Whiskey. (113)

Pinion by Jay Lake.

Victoria's head
was crowned with brass plugs & wires
asleep in the dark.

The third of Jay Lake's Clockwork Earth books (for want of a better name), this continues (concludes?) the arc of Paolina & Childress. Or at least wraps up many of the threads; I hesitate to say that the roller coaster ride is really finished. Lake is good at writing those sorts of endings-- sure, plot points are wrapped up, but just have many have been raised in the telling. I like Jay Lake. I put Green on my extended Best Of 2009 list as the standout of all his books I read this year. This volume is fragmented between a slew of characters-- from British secret agents, brass robots powered by the Seal of Solomon, Chinese librarians, sorceresses of the Southern Earth, a whole mess of everybody & everything. I'm happy to see the Southern Earth start to raise its face a little more; I think the real world is Northern Hemisphere-centric enough! Of course, in the real world there isn't a wall that stretches into the sky to unite with a heavenly track which goes about the sun...

I quite liked it. At first I thought the jumping from character perspective to character perspective was jarring, but as the characters started to come together, it worked fine; once the submarines & airships began to fill with the dramatis personae. As for the aforementioned wizard of the South, she was pretty great; very flavorful. I have to admit; I don't know if her tradition reflects real world mythologies or were invented whole cloth. A traveling wa & the Westfacing House, the city of circles & the Silent World. All very evocative. Boaz, especially with the voice of God in his belly, was another really strong contender in this book. Childress was strong as usual, & Kitchens was...exactly what he was. Paolina I think somewhat regressed; though her tutelage with Ganshansunu was promising, I felt like her disdain for men went back to its sort of unthinking knee jerk which rang hollow in a book populated with strong female characters & reasonable male ones. That, coupled with her same old moral dilemma about the stemwinder ("I'll never use it again! Especially not to kill. No, you have to kill those guys with your guns. That, I'm okay with.") was sort of a drag, considering what an outstanding addition to the cast she was in the last book. She wasn't a wretch or anything; I just would have liked to see her shine more. I will say this: the arc of Kitchen's plot was really compelling, & the truest "Steampunk" part of the series to date. Which I don't mean as a slam or a praise; I'll praise it on its own, but I think the "Punk" part of Steampunk usually gets forgotten in the urge for more Steam.