Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies

After reading the first book of Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastard SequenceThe Lies of Locke Lamora, I picked up the second book: Red Seas Under Red Skies.  

I am thoroughly enjoying this series.   The first book was excellent, and the second shows that there is a lot more going on in the world.

Red Seas Under Red Skies revolves around our two principle characters: Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen.  Thieves by trade.  The two of them have left Camorr (after the events of The Lies of Locke Lamora) and found themselves in Tal Verrar – ready to run a heist against a massive casino called the Sin Spire.  I love that name.  Honestly, someone in Las Vegas should totally name a casino the Sin Spire.

But, the heist is not without its issues.  There is more going on in Tal Verrar than just business as usual.  There is a massive power struggle happening, and as you might expect, Jean and Locke get mixed up in the middle of it.

The story runs a good clip.  Clearly, Mr. Lynch did a bang-up job on research for this story.  You can’t just look up words for things on a sailing vessel; you have to learn a bit to understand how sail plans work and such.

Overall I would give the story a B+.  Some parts that felt a bit rushed and the conclusion of one of the major sub-plots was a bit hasty.  Otherwise, this was an excellent story.  I will offer that this book is not intended for children.

Mr. Lynch has created an incredible world, with a great deal of complexity.  There is a full pantheon of gods – complete with worshippers and rites.  There are superstitions and powerful groups who shouldn’t be crossed lightly.  I will certainly be (in fact, I already have started) reading the third book The Republic of Thieves.

On audiobooks

I am an avid consumer of audiobooks.  I have read the entire Dresden Files (by Jim Butcher) end-to-end at least three times, all though the masterful narration of James Marsters.  I have loved listening to many stories.  I listened to Andy Weir’s The Martian (excellently narrated by R. C. Bray), Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One as well as Armada, both narrated by the incomparable Wil Wheaton.

A good narrator paired with a good story can be amazing.  That’s not to say that an excellent narrator can turn a bad story around; both parts must be good.  But an excellent narrator working from a great story can be a thing of wonder.  Such a pairing happened with Bronson Pinchot narrating The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia.  This pairing was a thing of beauty.  I am old enough to remember watching Perfect Strangers.  So seeing that Balki Bartokomous was going to be reading the story made me worry.  Turns out, Mr. Pinchot is flipping amazing.  I say that without hesitation, his reading of that trilogy was brilliant.  So here was a phenomenal pairing of a great reader with a great story.  It was fun.

I have considered the option of doing an audiobook of my novel.  I have a pretty good speaking voice.  A pleasant, resonant baritone (or so I’ve been told). It can’t be that hard to do, right?  Oh, how wrong I was.  It wasn’t the reading that was the problem; it was a problem of time and equipment.  To do a professional-ish audiobook version would require renting time at a sound studio and paying an engineer to handle the board.  I don’t have that type of money (or time).

“So why can’t I do this at home?” I asked myself.  “I’m smart, I have access to Amazon, surely this is something that I could do over a few weekends at home.” This brings us to the present.  To purchase a decent microphone and a small (2 track) mixing board isn’t the issue.  I can get both of those for much less than you might imagine.  It’s setting up a calm, quiet space in which I can sit, for hours on end, and record my voice.  And then comes the hard part.  I know this story.  I didn’t just write it; I know it.  I know all the hidden things, all the backstory – all of it.  So how do I make sure not to record any subtext about [REDACTED]? Or, how [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] aren’t really [REDACTED].

I imagine that if there is a call for it, then I may try and see if I can get an audiobook version of the story.  At this point, though, I am just happy to have gotten a single review.

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Where to begin?

So as some of you may recall, I recently picked up one of Scott Lynch’s books.  Sadly, it was book 3 (I swear I didn’t know!) of an established series: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence.  Upon my realizing my mistake, I returned to my audiobook purveyor of choice (Audible) and grabbed the first book: The Lies of Locke Lamora.  I finished the book yesterday, and now I am ready to write my review.  I will try to avoid spoilers on the story, but I will say that some spoiler-ish things are going to be said.  Such as Locke Lamora survives the book, this should be obvious as there are three books currently published in this series, and Locke Lamora is the main character.  So, if I spoil something of the story here, I apologize. 

Grade: A-  Trust me, it’s very difficult for a book to earn a perfect score, but this book was (by my measure) really flipping great.

I will give you the distilled version of this review upfront: Buy this book.  Read this book.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I believe you will as well.

Now the longer version:

The story revolves around a thief named Locke Lamora.  What a great name.  As an old-school fan of comics, alliterative names are just fun.  Locke is an amazing con man with a very colorful past.  A good deal of Locke’s early life is told through a series of interludes. It is during these interludes that we learn of how he became a thief and how he met the thieves with whom he works: The Gentlemen Bastards.  Again, another great name.  I will not spoil any of his backstory here, but I will offer that if Mr. Lynch decided to write a series of stories about Locke and the rest when they were young thieves, I’d buy it.

Fundamentally, the story is about a massive con game.  Not trying to give anything away, and I will explain no more of it in detail. The story manages to maintain a splendid pace, and the action sequences have been written extremely well.  So well as to make me wonder what if any, martial arts Mr. Lynch has studied.  There are many colorful characters and brilliant twists.  I would love to tell you about a twist near the end of the story that had me in stitches, but that would spoil the fun.

The narrator, Michael Page was brilliant.  So if you are a fan of audiobooks (I most assuredly am), I recommend it.  If you are a fan of words on a page (including e-readers), this book is still a fun read.

Am I an idiot for writing a review of a book that is now eight years old?  Perhaps.  But, I did promise to write a review of the book to make amends to Mr. Lynch for missing the first two books.  Will I continue to read the series: that’s a definitive: YES.  I found the story and characters to be very interesting.  I think that Mr. Lynch’s world-building skill is amazing, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Republic of Theives by Scott Lynch

I am an avid consumer of audiobooks.  They fit well into my normal work, and they are often the only real “reading” I get to do during the normal workweek. I am currently reading/listening to Republic of Theives by Scott Lynch.

Someone, somewhere (reddit perhaps?) told me I should read this book.  So I picked it up a couple months ago.  The reader (Michael Page) is out-flipping-standing.   The story is engrossing and very well done.  Here’s the only issue.  And trust me, it’s not the fault of Mr. Lynch or Mr. Page; the fault lay solely in my hands.  I had never heard of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence. So I just grabbed Republic of Theives.  Herein is where I made my mistake.  For those of you who may not know, or are considerably smarter than I am: Republic of Theives is the third in the series. I will emphatically state that I feel more than a little foolish.  I started the book and was just thinking, “there appears to be a great deal of back-story between these two.  Why is the one guy poisoned/dying?”

My new credits arrive tomorrow, and I will grabbing the first book: The Lies of Locke Lamora.  Once I have read the first book of the series, I will certainly write a review of it here.  But consider this my endorsement of the series: even starting at book three of an established series, what I read was compelling enough that I wanted to go back and purchase the first book.

— CL