Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Book Review: Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter

infernal

I usually have two books on the go at any one time, one I read at home, and the other while commuting. I try to keep them in different genres where possible, but as I am reading five of the Pax Britannia steampunk books (by Jonathan Green and Al Ewing) in a row, it has led to a clash. So before I can move on to a none steampunk book, here is my review of Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter.

Jeter, has made something of a name for himself by writing sequels to other people’s books; or in the case of Blade Runner, three sequels to the movie, rather than the original book. At least that is how I have become aware of him, both by his Blade Runner books, and by Morlock Nights, Jeter’s sequel to H. G. Well’s The Time Machine.

He has also written several franchise novels (for Star Wars, Star Trek and Marvel comics), as well as his own stand-alone books.

What makes his two steampunk novels (Infernal Devices and Morlock Nights) most intriguing, is not actually particularly related to either book, it is more the fact that Jeter was the person who coined the term STEAMPUNK.

Getting back to Infernal Devices itself, the book is mainly set in Victorian London and then at several locations around the British Isles, it is written in a very “Victorian style”, the language has the feel of having been written in the late 19th century, which is of course a good thing for this type of novel. It does however make the book slightly harder to read and also makes the characters somewhat less sympathetic, so it is difficult to be attracted to follow any of them.

The central character is a son of a watchmaker, who now runs his late fathers shop. It soon becomes apparent that his father was far more than a simple watchmaker and could create clockwork machines of incredible power, and that his scientific nature was far more in control of his creations than his moral or responsible mind should have allowed.

Without giving anything away, the watchmaker’s son, George, is soon carried along in an ever more complex plot with twists and turns that he can never predict. This, for me was one of the weaker points of the book, as you never felt that George was in control, and yet he had plenty of opportunities, especially in the first half of the book, to avoid being tied into the plot. He could have investigated much of it without blindly walking into deeper and deeper trouble. Also the central, and possibly world destroying plot has no real justification, beyond the ravings of the mad man at the centre of it. I cannot see how all of the people involved would possibly want to go through with it, for so little reason!

So, the plot is flawed in many ways, however, Infernal Devices does have some redeeming points, the world that Jeter creates is colourful and populated with fascinating characters. Some of the “infernal devices” are wonderfully weird, and should have been used in much more depth and to far greater effect, it would probably have made for a much more interesting book. As it is though, the reader is left feeling that this book as far too many instances of deux ex machina and not enough plot to use them all in.

Too be totally honest, the thing I enjoyed most about this book is the wonderful cover art by John Coulthart.

The review copy I received from Angry Robot Books was combined with Jeter’s other steampunk book, Morlock Nights, I will get around to reading that book later in the year, and to be quite honest I really hope that it has more about it than Infernal Devices.

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