Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Incrementalists

Remember how crabby I was about Parasite?  Apparently I needed a book to wash away the bad taste of that book.  Not by being good, but by sucking in ways that even Parasite couldn't keep up with.  I didn't check the ratings before I read The Incrementalists.  I've enjoyed some Steven Brust before, and he's good friends with Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, who I also enjoy.  There's even a small nod to Emma in The Incrementalists when Brust talks about listening to a Flash Girls song.

I should have read the reviews, particularly as Brust was cowriting with Skyler White, an author I'm unfamiliar with.  Let me start by saying the book just isn't what I expected, even after the first thirty to forty pages.  I had this idea that a group of humans who shared a Platonic (in the sense of the cave of allegories, not the kind of love), symbol-based memory extending back 40,000 years where they could pass forward personalities allowing them to consistently micro-meddle in human affairs might have a taste of Highlander.  Or perhaps a pre-virtual world meets virtual world vibe.  No.  It had a they-won't-shut-the-hell-up-and-do-something factual state that was interrupted by sex and piles of opining about love and what they've meddled with that really never gets to the point of what they've meddled with.  I had the strong feeling I was reading a scifi/thriller that had (inad)vertantly gone done the romance path.  40,000 years of memory, hundreds of years of existence, and the characters are all insipid, fragile, broken.  In better hands, that might have been an intriguing commentary on humanity.  But not in The Incrementalists.  In The Incrementalists it's just a crappy murder/suicide mystery about the ghost in the machine.  I had to push so hard to get through the last hundred pages that I found my brain skipping words, something it hasn't really done since textbooks in college.

I don't even  have to go to the one star reviews on Amazon to find a few favorites.  I can go to the 2s.  This resonates with me, "The characters do very cool things -- we're told. What we actually see them doing, however, is stumbling through a rather haphazardly conceived, pedestrian mystery that has nothing to do with subtle manipulation of historic events."  Perhaps my favorite two words that sum up the whole book, "tedious immortals."

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