November 06, 2003

Book Review: A Farce To Be Reckoned With

I just finished 'A Farce to Be Reckoned With' by Roger Zelazny and Robert Sheckley. I've read a fair bit of Zelazny--the Amber novels and Lord Of Light and some others. This book looked more light hearted, but I figured I'd give it a try.

I was sorely disappointed. There's no plot. Or, rather, there is a plot, but it makes no sense. Plot turns are introduced (like the Greek gods getting free) and then dropped, willy nilly. There's a character called Peter Westfall who gets Pandora's Box at the beginning, but we never hear from him again. And at the end, we have a fight scene that is a total deus ex machina--the end of the book comes with no explanations.

Normally, you expect characters to have reasons for things they do. They can do weird things, but they should justify it to themselves, and have the actions be a natural outgrowth of their past. This is called characterization. Characters in this book have one sentence justifications for absurd actions. We have a nun who decides to deal with the devil, and an angel who is ordered to spy. There's a set of religious pilgrims headed toward Venice during the Middle Ages. A demon joins them, proves himself to be a demon, and they don't even run from him.

The dialog is wretched. Everyone converses in a stilted manner. The description is campy; the authors apparently decided to focus on the clothing of women--there are attractive wimples and red low cut blouses galore.

It feels like this book has been subjected to random editing. Or perhaps worse than random, as I feel that there may have been malicious intent at confusing the reader. Characters pop up, disappear for a while, then pop up again with no explanation (an example is the young lady named Priscilla [or Puss]).

But you know what? All of the above flaws could have been forgiven if there had been any scene, any scene at all, that was funny. I wanted to forgive the flaws--I wanted to laugh--I read the entire book, didn't I? But I didn't even crack a smile the entire book. There were times I put it down and thought to myself, 'Why are you wasting your time?' I will admit, I finished the book (I think for the same reasons that folks slow down to look at a wreck on the highway).

Don't buy this book. If you want some funny fantasy, read 'A Night in the Lonesome October' (which is great!) or anything by Blaylock. Don't buy this book.

Posted by moore at November 6, 2003 09:28 PM
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