colleen the convivial curmudgeon's Reviews > Infernal Devices

Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter
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Aug 12, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: steampunk, science-fantasy
Read from November 07 to 15, 2012 — I own a copy


I keep bouncing back and forth on whether to give this one or two stars - though I'm pretty much sticking with the 1.5 either way. My dilemma is that while I didn't really like it, per se, I didn't actively dislike it, which is what I usually use 1-stars for, but I didn't like it, either.

I guess, for the most part, it was "ok", and I was going to give it a 2-stars for most of the book, but the ending left me feeling kinda "wtf?", which is why I was thinking of dropping it down. But it did have some things going for it... and also 'cause I feel like maybe I wasn't reading it in the right frame of mind... thus the consideration of keeping it at 2.

What I mean about being in the right frame of mind is that, for one of my status messages, I'd said that it would be better having been written as a comedy because of the absurdity of the situations the bumbling Dower kept getting himself in, and it crosses that threshold of believability after one thing after another after another after another keeps getting piled on top of the idiot.

The 'feeling bad' part comes in because, reading the afterword, is mentions the humor and the absurdity as being purposeful, as a sort of homage to the over-the-top Victorian adventure stories.

So I'm thinking that, maybe, if I'd read it in that light, maybe I would've found it more enjoyable and less annoying?

Though I can't say my expectations were skewed going in 'cause, honestly, I didn't really know what to expect, and I usually try and let the style of writing and the seeming mood of the book come across in the writing. So I'm not going to take blame, or anything, if I wasn't in the right frame of mind because I would say the writing, in the beginning, lead me to believe it was going for a more serious tone - so if it's meant to be more humorous in an absurd kind of way, then I would say the author failed to convey that intention via the tone.

So there.

Anyway -

That's a whole lot of semi-ranting without touching that much on the book, yet, aside from the fact that it seemed like it wanted to be serious, but ended up being absurd, which I found more stupid and irritating than amusing or endearing.

So a bit about the book and some of the good things:

This book first came onto my radar when I was involved in a sort of genre debate about steampunk, and I discovered that Jeter coined the term. Being a fan of the genre - or, at least, the idea of the genre - I wanted to read some of the proto- works and this seemed like an interesting place to start.

Of course, while I've often argued that steampunk is a form of sci-fi, generally, Jeter, himself, coined it in reference to "Victorian fantasies", and the science in this is very, well, fantastical. With few exceptions, there doesn't seem to be any attempt to stick within the confines of possible, or even plausible, science, what with the fishmen type things interbreeding with humans, and clockwork automaton working on principles of a metaphysical sort of resonance...

That aspect of it, actually, made me think a bit of Perdido Street Station, but whereas China Miéville's work - though wordy and overly dense in place - had flashes of brilliance and awe-inspiring profundity for me, this book's attempt at metaphysical philosophies came across as mostly waffle.

But, really, my biggest complaints were as I said before - Dower is one of those protagonists who is never pro-active, who constantly gets buffeted this way and that, and never really comes into his own at any point, and the sheer level of stuff that gets thrown at him from every angle is just beyond the pale.

I never really connected with any of the characters - though I did enjoy Creff and Abel - and the various twists and surprise reveals at the end were just... *smh*

I guess it makes a kind of sense, if it's meant to be an absurdist kind of tale, but, for me, it just came across as kind of asinine and I was thankful when it was done because I could say it was done...


So - 1 or 2 stars? I still can't decide...

ETA: I forgot to mention all the type-setting issues. There were quite a few of them and they were pretty distracting at times.

What I mean is things like missing quotation marks, missing periods at ends of sentences, and random periods in the middle of sentences. Since things like punctuation can alter the meaning of sentences, or how you read them, I often had to go back and reread bits 'cause I was thrown by their random placement.
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Reading Progress

11/12/2012 page 131
34.0% "Having a hard time getting into this. The story pieces seem interesting enough, but I keep getting drowsy while reading..."
11/14/2012 page 256
66.0% "Had a hard time getting into this, but it's picked up. Still not exactly enthralling or anything, but at least I'm not constantly dozing off in my attempts to read it.
It makes me think of the actor's nightmare, a lot, and sometimes I think it would be better as a comedy, because of the bumbling nature of the protag and the improbability of the story - and I don't mean the clockwork or the fish!"

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Felina (new)

Felina No review?

colleen the convivial curmudgeon Probably tomorrow, oh impatient one.

Also, I might bump it to 2. Can't decide.

Philip Ulbrich Your review helped me solidify my impression of the book. While it is the "started it all" steampunk work, and I could see that he was shooting for satire of the style, especially H.G.Wells, you pointed out that Dower never stood up and took charge, as Wells' characters always do. One other thing that annoyed me was how it seem to sway into H.P.Lovecraft territory. So, thank you, my opinion is now properly defined!

colleen the convivial curmudgeon Glad to be of service. :>

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