Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,426
Location
Highlands
Synopsis:

Locke and Jean are still reeling from the events from the first book, so decide (eventually) to sink their teeth into one big wonderful thieving challenge: robbing the Sinspire of Tal Verrar - effectively, the richest casino on the continent.

The trouble is, the powerful enemies they made in the first book have not forgiven the pair, and work to redirect them into as much harm as possible.

This results in Locke and Jean being 'coerced' into an attempt to command and crew a pirate ship, while they try and bring their plans, and lives, back under their own control.

Criticisms:

First things first: this is a very enjoyable book. That is has scored more lower marks than "The Lies of Locke Lamora" I think can be put down to a mixture of the first book having a "fresh" impact on the fantasy scene - and also building up too much hype and expectation for the sequel.

Secondly, from the more negative reviews, it appears that the sea-faring section of the book especially divides people. It seems that the fact Scott Lynch attempts to use a degree of nautical language gets a bit too much for some readers, while others find it makes it more real and exciting. Personally I never found it too much nor distracting, and it was all made a real part of the character experience.

The real criticisms of this book, though, are:

1. Prose: Scott Lynch isn't a perfect technical writer - but the text is charming and engaging
2. Editing - there is at least one noticeable editing error, when a paragraph is repeated early on - but this shouldn't distract from the joy of the story

Aside from that, it's still very much in the vein of "Lies of Locke Lamora": driven by character, humour, adventure, sprinkled with colourful language, and underlined by an intelligent sense of fun.

The origins of Elderglass remain an atmospheric backdrop to everything that happens, and cunning plans are outwitted by cunning foes.

Everything wraps up very nicely for a strong ending, but with enough questions open to continue the story.

Frankly, I think Scott Lynch is one of the freshest and more brilliant writers in the fantasy genre today: no cliches, thoughtful stories, characters you want to cheer for, original ideas, and meaty stories written with good pace.

(I posted this to Amazon UK here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/AYENOGWNW8/?tag=brite-21)
 

thaddeus6th

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Sep 15, 2007
Messages
6,639
Location
UK, Yorkshire
Hmm. It's been a while but I never noticed the repeat paragraph. Now I worry I'll miss one in my WIP.

I agree that it's probably judged slightly harshly because The Lies of Locke Lamora is often praised so much (I do love it, but the start could be better). I also thought the criticism of naval terms was overdone, because they aren't mentioned all that much.

Maybe I should've just written "I agree with Brian".

I hope we get Republic of Thieves soon. Lynch is a top writer, and his debut is one of my favourite fantasy books.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,426
Location
Highlands
Brian, do you have a review for the first book? Would like to read your opinion on that one as well.
I definitely recommend it - personally, I think George R R Martin, Joe Abercrombie, and Scott Lynch, are the three most important names in modern epic fantasy.

The big shame is that Lynch had a nervous breakdown after the second book - if he had kept writing, I think there would be far more discussion about him on chrons.


I hope we get Republic of Thieves soon. Lynch is a top writer, and his debut is one of my favourite fantasy books.
Quite agree - I'm tempted to pre-order Republic of Thieves, as it's down for release this year. However, I've noticed it's been set for release in 2011 and 2010 as well, so I'm not sure if the current release date is the triumph of hope over reality.
 

HoopyFrood

Yippie kayak other buckets!
Joined
Jul 13, 2006
Messages
5,438
Location
The Cloud
Poor guy went through a whole myriad of things. I think there was a death in the family, plus his marriage breaking down and I know for sure that he suffered bouts of depression and major panic attacks.

Really loved the first book a lot. I think the second wasn't quite as good, although all the female pirating going on was awesome. I think my biggest gripe with the second book was the feeble attempt that a cliffhanger opening that later was resolved really easily.

And yes, for the past three years or so Amazon has been updating the page with various estimated release dates. Each time I'd feel hopeful that this was finally it, then they'd inevitably get pushed back again. I've given up now and at this rate the only way I'll believe the book is being published is when it finally is and on the shelves.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,426
Location
Highlands
Well, on his blog relatively recently he mentioned about still having panic attacks. There's also apparently a novella based in Lamora world coming out. I suspect this all means Republic of Thieves may be on pre-order for quite some time, even though Lynch has a 60k section of it posted to his website:
http://www.scottlynch.us/excerpts.html
 

kromanjon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2013
Messages
103
The sea-faring section (as you called it) was a problem for me but not because of the use of natucal terms. Instead it was a problem because it very much divided the book into two sections very much divorced from eachother. It was a huge brake in the story and the end suffered for it.

It's still a great book and I very much enjoyed it, but it wasn't the lightning bolt of genius that the first book felt like.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,888
I'm reading it at the moment. It's odd - whilst overall I think it's a good book and I'm pretty awed by Lynch's imagination, I think the problems with the first book are more evident and the things I didn't like but had forgotten about are back with a bit of a vengeance. There are a few things that Lynch does that I don't like, but I'm very pleased that this sort of book is being written, and so well.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,426
Location
Highlands
Toby, I'm curious - which aspects are you not so keen on? I've heard lack of emotional involvement given as a complaint, and also the use of flashbacks - anything beyond these bugging you?
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,888
Ok, Brian, you asked for it... First up, Lynch does a lot of things that I really like. He brings noir (a fairly light noir!) into fantasy in a very slick, non-self-conscious way. He writes about moral ambiguity and the lack of inevitable happy endings without erecting a huge sign with "Look! Subverting the genre!" written across it. And also, his books aren't about saving the bloody world. They may well end up that way, but they're not about it yet, and the route there will probably be complex. It's neither a quest story nor a dynastic squabble, which is great.

Lynch also has a great imagination. A castle has a waterfall for a front door, a prize-fighter battles a horde of giant wasps, a falcon is bred to have scorpion glands on its legs, and a million other things. They all feel "in-world" but they're all ingenious.

I think my problems are with a lack of involvement, which leads to a weird feeling of blandness with some of the characters, and yes, the skipping back and forth in time, which I don't think helps the story all that much.

Locke and Jean are a bit flat. Apart from Locke's failed romance, I don't know what they do when they're not on a grift, what they enjoy or hope for. Occasionally Locke gets angry and elaborately swears revenge, but he's so mild that it seems surprising. That said, I don't dislike Locke and Jean at all. Most "loveable rogues" are much more smug. Locke's romantic failures and lack of physical indestructibility take him out of Mary Sue/James Bond territory.

Also, the tone is almost too light for me. The dialogue is very well-written but in a way too flippant - I can't help but feel that if Satan turned up, Locke and Jean would crack gags about his pointy beard and get away with it. When a villain is introduced, the usual procedure is to describe his eccentricities and then tell a story about an elaborate torture/revenge this villain cooked up, but this is starting to feel a bit by-the-numbers, especially since L&J will merrily pull a fast one on this murderous baddie.

But I'm very glad that Lynch is still writing, and not just because he has had a tough time of it. He's a really good writer. There are things I'd have done differently (that said, my own attempts at noir fantasy are still very much unpublished, so I can't claim any particular expertise here), but Lynch is trying and succeeding in doing something different.

If you ask me, fantasy got left behind compared to crime or SF. Tolkien may have been a great writer, but at times fantasy has worn his influence like a ball and chain. Lynch is doing something interesting and unusual that isn't an imitation of Tolkien or a deliberate reaction against him, and that in itself is a very good thing. He's also doing it rather well.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,888
Oh - sorry to double post but there's one more thing I really ought to say about Lynch.

It's the language. His characters talk in modern vernacular. This is definitely a good thing. I find the stilted mock-Victorian speech that a lot of fantasy writers use very artificial and sometimes bad at conveying meanings for which you need modern language. No doubt there were equivalent phrases in ye-olde-talk, but they don't translate easily. Occasionally, Lynch goes too far, and his characters use very recent Americanisms, but most of the time it lends a vibrancy to his stories that would be lost if he used the sort of mannered speech popular with a lot of fantasy writers.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,426
Location
Highlands
Thanks for the reply, Toby - that's pretty much the complaint I expected. There is a lack of emotional engagement, which is part of the style. It doesn't put me off at all, but it did mean my wife didn't enjoy it as she needs that from a book (she didn't like Arthur C Clarke's 2001 for the same reason).
 

thaddeus6th

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Sep 15, 2007
Messages
6,639
Location
UK, Yorkshire
Brian, has she read The Farseer Trilogy? That and The Tawny Man Trilogy are pretty high on the old emotional impact scale.

On ye olde speak: I agree this can be overdone, but an entirely modern way of speaking can also break immersion.
 
Top