Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blue and Gold by K. J. Parker

I was so ready to not like this book.  To say that the last few pages 'redeemed' the story would be a bit too strong, but it did take the last few pages to put things into focus.  As with Purple and Black, another short novel by Parker, to discuss the plot would give away the aforementioned redeeming surprised.  I won't indulge any spoilers, but the material that moonlights as 'plot' was my primary contention.
Saloninus is the narrator and certainly a unique enough character to merit first person narration.  He is one of the more self-serving and quasi larger-than-life characters you'll encounter in any book.  He is completely devoid of the scruples of conscience, and while not quite a criminal mastermind he is somewhat of an expert crook among many other things (alchemist, sculptor, poet, academic, etc et al).  He is also a liar and extremely entertaining to follow around for one-hundred pages.
Saloninus is in the employ of a prince who gives him unlimited funding in the pursuit of turning base metal into gold.  We never see this process happen as Saloninus preaches it's impossibility.  We do see Saloninus murder, lie, deceive, steal and be a general not too nice person.  
Literary fiction often comes under fire for being beautiful writing, engaging and entertaining with no plot; such was my initial complaint with Blue and Gold.  We see the various degrees of Saloninus' character in his past, and present but there was never a reason given, or even one to discern, for his actions.  He had a great job with amazing pay and benefits, a pretty wife he didn't like, but it wasn't as if he snapped and went crazy, rather it is presented that his behavior is the only way he could possibly act given his nature.  Happily, (not 'luckily' Parker seems too good a writer and in too much control of plot events to say 'luckily') the shared events of Saloninus' life are too much fun to read about and ultimately the novel too short for for me to call it flawed.  We are given reasoning and grounding for Saloninus being Saloninus at the end in a fun surprise that Parker seems fond of and expert in conceiving.
The novel is set in an antiquity of Parker's creation but the language used, particularly Saloninus' voice is contemporary.  It was a bit jarring at first but I was able to get over today's profanity and vernacular quickly.  
Subterranean Press continues to confuse me as they contrast the quality of their books with a lack of copyediting or even general proof reading before printing.  It's more than a handful of errors and in a book this short they are all highly visible.  Unfortunately, it's a befuddling, consistent issue I've had with Subterranean Press.
Blue and Gold is quick, dirty, and a whole lot of fun.  Find a copy.  Buy it.  Whenever there is nothing worth watching on TV (and when is there?) or it's raining outside, or you're bored and need to kill an hour; read and enjoy.    

No comments: