Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Left Hand of Death

So about a year ago, while discussing Worldcon, I mentioned picking up a book on the recommendation of the extremely cute Erin Evans. The book I picked up was titled The Left Hand of Death by Parker DeWolf; the cover notes that it is Book 1 of The Lanternlight Files. It was described by Ms. Evans (IIRC) as a fantasy noir, sort of Raymond Chandler meets Dungeons and Dragons.

Well, if you remember August and September of last year, I was reading through the Worldcon stack at a pretty good clip and posting my impressions here. Then I got to the DeWolf book, and bogged down halfway through. I set it down and didn't pick it up again for almost a year.

So what was wrong? Well, part of it was surely just that I'd read too many books in too short a time and was ready for something different. But another, bigger part is that the book just didn't succeed as advertised.

I mean, sure, it has the requisite Chandleresque stock characters and plot coupons. Ulther Whitsun, the main character, is a fixer, the closest thing the D&D world has to a private eye, apparently. People hire him to solve problems, especially problems that take place in the grimy underworld. Oh yes, Whitsun is a hard-boiled bad-ass, all right.

And yes, there's a MacGuffin, and a shady dame who hires him to find it and almost leads him to ruin, and there's a fat man who's also searching for it, and a hit man, and a gunsel (or D&D equivalent) who's got eyes for the dame and is jealous of Ulther. Ulther's search takes him from the chambers of the rich and powerful to the lowliest den of thieves and runs him afoul of crooks and cops alike.

It's got the elements, all right. But the tone, the atmosphere, are still Dungeons and Dragons, and for me, Dungeons and Dragons is pretty watered down and juvenile as fantasy goes. I mean, if you want me to take your story seriously, you've got to do better than halfling thieves. Halfling thieves? I mean, seriously, come on.

So anyway, I finished it, so it didn't beat me. But I won't be searching for the further adventures.

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