Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review - Gail Carriger's Heartless

Heartless, The Parasol Protectorate Book 4 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 28th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
After the to-do with the Templars, Alexia is back with her husband in the land of connubial bliss. She has even reached an entente with the vampires so that they'll stop trying to kill her and her unborn child. The plus side of the arrangement is that she gets to see a lot more of Lord Akeldama, the downside is that technically she's living in his second best closet while claiming to be residing next door. Which does get a mite complicated when her sister shows up and demands to stay with them. Apparently Alexia's family can't take their daughter being a suffragette... even if the other one is eight months pregnant by a werewolf and living with vampires they must maintain their middle class standards. Exceptions cannot be allowed. But Alexia can't have her sister residing with a pack of werewolves while she's snoozing next door! She must also maintain propriety. Plus, the wolves aren't liking living in town and then there's poor Biffy. Biffy isn't taking to his new life being a wolf. He lacks control, which can only be restrained by the touch of Alexia. Between the tea, the witty repartee and the ashamed Biffy, there is something afoot in London. The ghosts have started threatening the Queen. Or warning of a threat... the ghosts aren't really being very specific about the threat or where the threat originates from or if there's some evil invention involved. Wouldn't it be nice to get a simply worded warning with no vagaries and no zombie porcupines thank you very much. But even if all these problems are resolved before the birth, what exactly is being born? The Vampires and the Templars where both scared, and that can't be a good sign.

I have had much too and fro with my friends about this book. Some are all happy, others are dissatisfied. Personally, I'm of the camp where I was personally satisfied, with one caveat, but I am willing to see why there are those dissatisfied. There really wasn't much action or plot to this story. It was more a comedy of manners with more dirigibles than ever before. There was a lot of witty banter, a lot of Lord Akeldama (which was seriously lacking in the previous volume), not enough of the Madame Lefoux I know and love and a poor Biffy. Which I think was enough. But the ghosts and their dire warnings seemed to hint about some big conspiracy, some huge world altering emergency, and there plot seemed to just fade like the vabors they resemble. There was follow through, and what they did warn of did occur, but by the time it came it fell flat. If something is set up so wonderfully and has the feeling of a good Victorian mystery in the vein of Wilkie Collins, please don't let that urgency fade. This for me was a small aside, something I could live with because I was so engrossed in the book. Let's get to my problem though...

I will not say why, how or who but I will say what. The Octomaton. This creation just about jumped the shark for me. Picture a Victorian Man in stripy swimsuit and a mechanical shark instead of the Foz please. It was too over the top. A giant metal octopus killing machine of steel and fire set to destroy vampires. Ok, cool idea, kind of, it's just there was another loony who had the same idea... and yes, I'm talking about Dr. Arliss Loveless in the misguided reboot of Wild Wild West, I apologize in advance for getting the Will Smith song in your head, it just can't be avoided.

So, yeah, in his evilness with the mutton chops and spidery goatee, I will admit, I find Kenneth Branagh kind of sexy. That's my issue. The book's issue is that the Octomaton is his freakin' spider death machine. There is no other way to view it. This tacky kitsch movie kept intruding onto my lovely little world of the Parasol Protectorate. I cannot forgive this bizarre breach of a world I love. Yes it's not EXACTLY the same, but it's not EXACTLY different either.

This Octomaton destroyed the climax of the book and if it wasn't for my enjoyment up until then and a sweet denouement, then I might be one of my friends saying that this series is over for me. I won't say that. I love this series, and Wild Wild West intrusion and all, I'll keep on loving it. Plus, the hint of what Alexia's baby is... tantalizing in the extreme. Timeless can't come soon enough for me.


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