Don’t you just love the cover? The colors blend very well, red and black. That silhouette of a smoking gangster perfectly encapsulates the narrator, a fallen angel impersonating some Philip Marlowe. That detail is shown off by the stunning wings. Really eye catching. Then you have the cityscape in the background. I mean, if I could ask for the perfect Fantasy Noir cover, this would come extremely close.
But wait. What’s that? Why the hell is there a red X? Who put that atrocity there, and why?
It was random, and I believe that sums up why this is one of the most disappointing reads of 2013.
Tregillis paints a very verbose picture with a gumshoe narrator as the means for this. 30s slang you would find in a Chandler novel is right at home between these dusky ends. But that slang can create confusion. Not enough to deter the reader, but some. The opposite POV to Bayliss, the fallen angel, catches some of this befuddlement the reader has.
However, this connection dies when she mopes for half the book, screws up the entire world, and still decides to do things “her way.” Because it worked the first few times. Bayliss is nothing bad; his POV was extremely fun, but Molly’s was enough to make me ask a bear to tear my eyeballs out. She could be really infuriating.
But that’s not the big qualm. Not by a long shot.
I’ll just note that when you have a PhD in Physics, that does not give you the excuse to write an entire book where only a physicist could understand it. I don’t read to have funny jargon bounce off my brain. When used sparingly to help differentiate between angels and humans, this tid-bit of worldbuilding is okay. When you go pages and pages without ever uttering a single piece of dialogue, all to shove this introspection and intelligence down our throats, it is not.
“And so it was evident to her freshly expanded consciousness that the mortal epsilon METATRON had embedded into every angel was analogous to a color charge in QCD. Quarks could never escape their chromodynamic confinement with each other; energetically, it was always more favorable to generate a quark/antiquark pair than to sever the gluon bond.”
And it keeps going…
So yes, I stopped halfway through. I made the comment that if the next page didn’t have dialogue in it, I would quit. Guess what? A book that’s barely 300 pages long manages to focus on ideas instead of plot or even characters. Maybe it’s a thinly disguised piece of non-fiction.
If the technicalities don’t put you off, by all means, pick up this book. I’ve heard his Milkweed Triptych is a grand trilogy, even if you do put a fancy word in there. But Something More Than Night is not some read you’ll sit down to enjoy. It’s thinking material, and not in the way I usually love. It’s thick, and there’s no reason for that.
Now, if you wanted an excellent 1st person hardboiled tale set in some dystopia, cluttered with a lot of pop references and perhaps a meandering plot like this, I would heartily recommend Andrez Bergen’s debut, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. At least that one has sense enough to pull strong dialogue in with the introspection.
*I was given this ARC for my honest review.*
Amazon US: Something More Than Night