Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review - George Mann's The Executioner's Heart

The Executioner's Heart by George Mann
Book Provided by the Author
Published by: Tor
Publication Date: July 9th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Newbury has been sinking further into the mire his friends had hoped to extricate him from. His days are made up of dark arts and drugs. Yet little do they know he is doing it for them. His and Amelia's visions of a darkness to come brought by the sinister Executioner need to be studied so that it can perhaps be avoided. Though with bodies turning up with their hearts ripped out, perhaps the darkness is nearer at hand then they had hoped. With motives being questioned and no one knowing who to trust, can Sir Maurice and Veronica survive the darkness to find a bright future?

The way George's books are written they lend themselves to be read at breakneck speed wherein you never set them down. Alas life almost never allows for such luxuries. Work, appointments, commitments, sleep, anything and everything can be thrown in your path of just wanting to read one more chapter. The more interruptions that happen the more the story loses it's immediacy and the more likely you are to forget salient details and the narrative to lose it's impact. As it happens I had been reading the previous volume during my downtime at a Steampunk convention (fun for the tie-in, but hard when you just had to leave for a panel during a fight scene.) After the close of the convention I had factored in a few days of rest and recuperation before transitioning back to real life. This time allowed me the luxury of getting to read The Executioner's Heart without interruption.

I have just finished the last page and I seriously don't know what to do. The book enveloped me completely and I was just mesmerized. The best stories compel you ever onward, waiting for the next twist, the next chapter, the next book. I gobbled this volume up and I am sated. I just hope it will last, because while I'm not saying that I've reached the point of searching for cheap airfare and just showing up on George's doorstep, each book has built on the previous volume creating a greater story as we watch the characters and George's writing develop, and I do want more. As soon as possible. I know where you live George.

George has a knack with his characters. They have depth and originality. You can view them all as real people that you could meet on the street, that is if you could get to the street where they live. But what really makes his books stand out, which I'm sure I've mentioned before in passing, is that not just the heroes and heroines are well rounded but so are the villains, more so in this volume. In the previous three volumes we have gotten an understanding of those who would thwart Newbury and Hobbes, but in The Executioner's Heart we get even more insight. By having chapters telling us the story of The Executioner, we get a glimpse into what makes her tick, literally. By having these little flashes of her past, while we can't condone her actions, we come to an understanding. We know why she is what she is, but even the why and the how bring up more questions.

The clockwork heart and other infernal devices that have been prolonging Queen Victoria's life have long been a theme in this series, but now they are literally the heart of the matter. With Queen Victoria and The Executioner we have two individuals living beyond their time on earth by clockwork hearts. Both these women are depicted as, well, excuse the pun, but heartless. They are cold and calculating. They do what needs to be done. This brings the idea of man versus machine into stark relief. What is it that makes us human? We talk about love and emotion as being a part of the heart, when really they are seated somewhere in our brain.

But is it the removal of this organ that makes us less then human? Is it just this that sets these two women apart? Or is it the end result of that procedure that makes them something else? Is it living beyond their time that is what breaks them? Seeing the world change and not being a part of that change eroding your humanity? Immortal creatures from Gods to vampires are all in some way monstrous in the stories we tell. Is this because they are unable to connect to what it is to be human? There are just so many questions posed and as the book comes to a close, well, the answer is more important then ever. Gaw George, I might not have the next volume but you have left me so much to ponder!

One fact though I never need to dwell on is that at the end of the day the true villain is the one who tries to justify their deeds as being for "The Greater Good." Every baddie ever from Voldemort to the Neighborhood Watch Alliance of Sandford has used this excuse for their actions. Personally if anyone started spouting this dogma in front of me I'd take to my heels immediately. Or you know, go all righteous on their asses like Newbury. The thing is evil deeds cannot be justified. There aren't gradations of evil or wrong. If you do something wrong it's wrong. Yes, you could do something more wrong, but that's just going more evil, you're already evil from the wrong act. Having some people die without their say to save more... just no. It might be a "tough decision" but committing evil is never for "the greater good." There will always be a taint. Always.


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