Thursday, December 3, 2009

Agyar - Steven Brust

I picked up Agyar after reading this review by Jo Walton.

What I love about this book is the way it is written. Jack has found an old typewriter and is simply writing to help pass the time while he waits for something to happen. He used to write a long time ago, but is very out of practice. And he is writing with a typewriter, so you are getting a totally unedited first draft. I'm really impressed that Brust managed to write something that feels very unpolished and fresh off the typewriter, and yet make it a story that moves along so nicely and with interesting character development. I think it must be really hard to do this style of thing, when too much action is happening, obviously the main character is not spending as much time in front of the typewriter. When he's sitting around bored, he has lots of time to write, but not nearly as much to say. Very much like a blog.

Spoilers ahead.

The thing which originally intrigued me about this book was the observation by Jo Walton and many of her commenters that this is the sort of book where you don't figure out quite what is going on until near the end, which means that the first time reading it is very special, and re-reading leads to a very different experience. I love this sort of thing, although unless it is done extremely well it is quite frustrating. Now possibly just knowing that there was something more going on made me pay extra attention. Or maybe, like one person commented, the cover of the book gives you a significant hint, but I figured out who & what Jack Agyar was after only a few pages.

He forgets the name of his date, his initial interaction with Jill isn't just slick, it is downright predatory. His awareness of the animals on the street as they walk to Jill's house, and his pause on the doorstep to be formally invited into the house. To me this explains things very nicely, and in a way that I find particularly appealing. I like being led to a conclusion, being given all the clues I need and having things made fairly obvious, without having my nose rubbed in it. If the book were to start with the line "Jack was a vampire" then all the extra details would just be annoying, sure he's world-weary, has supernatural senses, needs to be invited in. Instead you get to have a gradual realization that he isn't entirely normal, then not entirely human, and then you start to see some stereotypical vampiry things. Maybe Brust intends for people not to figure things out until later in the book, but to me he made things blatantly obvious in the first chapter. Which is totally fine by me. I don't think it would be especially fun to read this through without knowing that Jack is a vampire...but maybe that's because I haven't tried and won't get to.

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