Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Horns of Ruin (2010)

My emphasis, being as it is, on Scientific Romances and Voyages Extraordinaires, I admittedly have a limited association with the Fantasy genre. I had a brief flirtation with Dungeons and Dragons in my teens that was really more of a flirtation with the Ravenloft setting itself. Some of the franchises I like are fond holdovers from my childhood, like Legend of Zelda and Dragon Warrior. Some are classic mythologies with strong Victorian relations, such as the Arthurian legends and their resurrection courtesy of Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites. In ones like Castle in the Sky, The Vision of Escaflowne or Simoun, all of which are anime, my affection is tied to a beautiful aesthetic coupled with engaging philosophical content and a strong emotional centre.

To be fair, the same is true of Science Fiction for its own sake. My consumption of generic Sci-Fi isn't much better... All I can say is that I have particular reasons for why Scientific Romances best capture my imagination (though rich Gothic Horror is right up there, if not surpassing it). It is not merely the fantastic aesthetic and imaginative technologies, but also the historical, cultural, artistic and scientific reference points that turn them into opportunities for exploration. Without those things, a work has to be exceptional. Even putting the trappings of Scientific Romances on a Fantasy novel does not properly meet those criteria.

The point of this confession is to say that I wasn't exactly sure what to do when Pyr/Prometheus Books sent me a copy of Tim Akers' The Horns of Ruin. Being a Steampunk Fantasy novel, I'm not sure that I have the proper reference points to determine if it is any good. There were some interesting contentions in it, like a form of magic that constructs machinery, and some strict literary problems, like how it took a seeming eternity to move the plot along. Personally, however, I didn't find anything in it to make the reading more than an effort at writing an obligatory review.

Since I am at a loss to figure out if the following excerpt from the first chapter is good writing for the genre, I leave it to your discretion:
The pale-headed man locked the gate behind us, shuttered the cowl on the clockgeist, and escorted us into the library-prison of Amon the Scholar. We followed a long brick tunnel deep into the complex, the way lit by the Alexian's gently humming frictionlamp. There were no other guards, no other gates, but suddenly the tunnel opened up into the mitochondrial complexity of the Library's stacks. We were among the Amonites. I bristled, and the articulated sheath on my back twitched with insectile anticipation, like a spider testing its web.

If that is good, then I suppose The Horns of Ruin will be suited to your tastes.


Jack Horner said...

I've heard of damning with faint praise before, but this review is of a different ilk. 'Darning with perplexed apathy', perhaps?

Cory Gross said...

I like that... perplexed apathy...

Really, it was just a way of trying to be fair in saying "this sort of thing isn't really my sort of thing."