Thursday, March 25, 2010

Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve

This is the third book in the Hungry City Chronicles and is sadly the weakest of the bunch. Roughly 15 years have gone by since Predator’s Gold ended. Hester and Tom have a daughter named Wren. She finds her life in Anchorage stifling, boring, lacking in any and all adventures that her parents seem to have had. So when some Lost Boys secretly visit her town it is easy for her to romanticize their life of danger and thievery and she agrees to help them steal a Tin Book from Anchorage’s library. Of course it all goes horribly wrong and the far-flung pieces of this drama are drawn inexorably closer.

I’m not quite sure where to begin my discussion. Perhaps just expressing my disappointment is a good place to start. Gone is the wonderful characterization that helps the reader root for the characters. This installment has so many characters and angles that it was probably difficult to stay with any of them long enough to develop them into people the reader cares about. Hester, I’m looking especially hard at you. The same insecurities that were so wonderfully explored and developed in the first two books just seem tired, and dare I say it, lazily written here. Yes, Hester, we know you are damaged, but the fact that you still fear the exact same things you did in the first book means you haven’t matured as a character. What is understandable in a teenager is just pathetic in an adult.

Tom isn’t much better. When faced with the evidence of Hester’s sociopathy again and again (and I think it is fair to say that if Hester isn’t a sociopath she certainly could play a convincing one on TV), he just weeps and gives in. His humanity which has always been endearing and something of a strength, turns into a dismal show of personal weakness. I’m not sure which one I wanted to choke more. Hester, for no longer being kick-butt in a good way, or Tom for not having any balls.

There were still some bright spots and some genuinely funny laugh out loud moments which were generally aimed at the artistic class. Like an opera called “Diana, Princess of Whales.” Or the fact that that a town celebrated Mime-Baiting Day “When Brightonians were allowed to get back at the city’s swarms of irritating street performers.” Very funny stuff. But the sharp social commentary that was so present in the first two books seems to have petered out a bit. Instead Reeve just relentlessly drives the story forward without the finesse that made the first two such compelling reads. I was still excited about the over-arching plot progression, but am disappointed that it didn’t live up to my expectations.

I didn’t have strong memories of this one and now I know why, I must have wanted to block it out. I can’t remember anything about the final book (does that mean I didn’t read it? I'm shocked and ashamed to realize that it might be the truth) so I’m hoping that the extra time spent building up all these different story lines pays off in a big way.

Fever Crumb

Book Source: Library Copy


Kerry said...

How do you manage to read so much?!?

Patti said...

I haven't been watching any TV lately. Or cleaning my house.