Sunday, 5 May 2013

ePulp Review of the Week - The Sting of the Silver Manticore by P. J. Lozito.

The Sting of the Silver ManticoreThe Sting of the Silver Manticore by P. J. Lozito
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*Pulp Warning* All my e-reading is pulp skewed so my reviews are too. Reader beware :) *Pulp Warning*

Overall: 3 stars (You may get something out of it)

First up, I didn't finish this book. It was just too much. This is, personally, a 2 star book - one that has major problems with the basic writing craft, regardless of the story being told. But I rated it a 3 because I think that if you are a hard core retro pulp fan you may get something out of this. But for everyone else I recommend you try something else.

Pacing and Action: 2 stars.

This was a very slow story and not because of the action scenes etc. This is a slow story because there is endless exposition (at least for the first 48% I read). Six or seven of the first ten chapters are, without a word of exaggeration, exposition chapters in which two or more people sit in a room and explain things to each other. It's incredibly frustrating. Explanation after explanation after explanation. Much of it concerns character biographies, historical events and plot points that occurred before the story even starts which is bizarre as I was under the impression this was the first book in the series. It also leads to a convoluted, twisting plot with motivations I couldn't recall. It was frustrating and it was slow. And eventually I just had to put it down.

Pulp Concept: 3 stars.

This is where things get really frustrating. For all the confusion and lag in the story this appears to be one of the best researched pulp stories I've ever read. It is clear that the author is a massive pulp fan and student of the era. And this is where nostalgia-pulp fans will get a kick out of the story – the story is riddled with little anecdotes of the era, information about various experiments or scientific breakthroughs that were occurring at the time and brand names or popular culture references dropped in at every turn. It’s thick throughout the story and really does help ground the story in the era. But if you’re not a fan of the era and not playing pulp-era bingo then it slows the story down even more with obscure references to unnecessary information. Again, very frustrating.

The pulp concept is also very derivative. I don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of nostalgia-pulp characters but even I know a blatant Doc Savage clone when I see one, right down to his offsiders where there is no attempt to hide the fact they’re clones. This is largely a fan fiction story about the time the Green Hornet teamed up with Doc Savage. There are few original ideas and that offsets a lot of good research.

Character Development: 2 stars.

As mentioned before, most of these characters are straight up ports of other characters so there wasn’t a lot of character development to speak of, but I will qualify that by pointing out I only got half way through the book. But with all the exposition going on there was plenty of ‘telling’ and not much ‘showing’ which, again, was very frustrating.

Another aspect that was done well was the characterization of the bad guys but it’s a complicated ‘well’. The Oriental villains are characterised well in that they really do feel like the Fu Manchu-style characters from the serials etc and as a piece of fan fiction the story reproduced them well. But those representations are fairly uncomfortable in a modern context. The characters are freed from much of the racist baggage of their peers through various stretches of exposition and some clunky dialogue sequences but it was still awkward to read. That’s not on the author so much as the lingering shadow those old characters cast but it was a little uncanny to read.

Production: 3 stars.

Again, not great. Spelling and grammar mistakes everywhere. It needed a much better edit before being published. Saving grace was the cover which I didn’t think was too bad and helped it stand out from other pulp offerings. An extra star for the cover. But that didn’t help what was past the cover.

Series Potential: ? stars.

I didn’t make it to the end of the book so I can’t say for sure but if the characters are all knock offs then I can’t imagine why you would want to read further adventures. Not when you can read the real ones. I do think that the writer has potential to do this sort of project in the future, learning from their fairly simple beginner mistakes to write another well researched, style-accurate nostalgia-pulp character series. But this character may have already done its run.

Wrap Up.

There really is some quality stuff in this story but it’s lying under a thick layer of beginner writing that really ruins the experience. If you adore the genre and the era then you will love all the references and probably get a chuckle out of the way it so clearly references the classic pulp characters. But for someone unfamiliar with the old pulps or too young to get anything out of the nostalgia aspect you are better off trying something else.

View all my reviews

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