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review 2016-10-31 16:43
Adventures in Audio
Phoenix Rising - Philippa Ballantine,Tee Morris
A Conspiracy of Alchemists - Liesel Schwarz
The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Book 1 - Rod Duncan

Mr Ceridwen and I have been listening to audiobooks on our (somewhat long) drive up to the cabin, which has been generally enjoyable. We got through the entire "Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire" series, which was absolutely a great time. Good narrators, very interesting alt-history, a semi-twist ending I didn't see coming, very astute observations about gender, and on. Well recommended all around. So then we cased around for the next steampunkery to fill the hours. 

 

I downloaded A Conspiracy of Alchemists first, but holy God was the narrator bad. We just couldn't stop laughing at her hiccoughing reading style. Then we moved on to Phoenix Rising, which opens with a relatively fun rescue sequence, and then settles into ... a whole lot of not so very clever bickering. The main characters, named Books & Braun (gag), are a fussy librarian and a stabby brute, but, get this, the DUDE is the fussy pepperpot and the LADY loves explosives. Oh ho, I bet you thought the lady was the librarian, but you would be wrong! See our fascinating gender reversal! 

 

I actually fell asleep while listening. 

 

Which, look, I generally think whether I like this sort of pulp mid-list disposable reading is more dependent on the angle of the sun or the barometric pressure than, say, actual merit. Because this stuff is all more or less the same -- somewhat formulaic, dependent on action, sometimes quippy, little bit of romance for the ladies, etc -- so I wonder sometimes why I bother reading (or writing) reviews. Something called Conspiracy of Alchemists is going to be a three-star outing, shitty narrators notwithstanding, and that I thought Phoenix Rising boring and trite might because I ate something like all the doughnuts when I stopped in Hinckley and hit Toby's bakery. Noms. 

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review 2016-03-09 09:26
"The Bullet Catcher's Daughter" by Rod Duncan- good ideas strangled by terrible writing
The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Book 1 - Rod Duncan

I couldn't resist buying this one: great title, striking cover art, a steampunk setting and the first in a series. It had to be worth a read. Except that it wasn't. I gave up after ninety minutes of this ten hour audiobook.

 

There's a lot to like in "The Bullet Catcher's Daughter": a truly original take on an alternative nineteenth century England; a brave and tenacious heroine who has to pretend to be a man in order to do what needs doing (which not only allows gender issues to be highlighted but gives lots of opportunities for cross-dressing fun); a tongue-in-cheek attitude that salts the whole thing with dry humour and big, impressive Victorian machinery.

 

Normally, I'd have settled down to this with the same kind of smile I have on my face when I'm reading the one of the "Parasol Protectorate" books but my enjoyment was destroyed by the faux-Victorian language. It was distressingly inauthentic, producing the distracting dissonance that one experiences when listening to a non-native speaker trying to use the vernacular of one's own language. It may be amusing for a short time but it quickly becomes wearisome. I was expecting pastiche but what I got was clumsy parody that rendered the dialogue lifeless and crippled the attempts at humour.

 

I'm aware that this is a very popular series, so perhaps the fault lies with my expectations but this one was added to my Did Not Finish pile.

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