Red Seas Under Red Skies

I finished Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies the better part of a week ago, and have been considering whether it would be worth making some remarks about it. I've definitely bought into Mr. Lynch as an important and exciting new writer with plenty of heat behind him - bought into him quite literally, in fact, as I find myself, rather to my surprise, owning four copies of The Lies of Locke Lamora (the US trade hardcover, another copy of the US trade hardcover from Clarkesworld, autographed and with a printout of the prologue of Red Seas, the UK hardcover, and the Subterranean Press limited); all of them purchased, not one of them a review copy or other freebie. I just don't do this any more. Years ago, when I was still in my intensive collector phase, sure, I not infrequently would end up with multiple copies of a book in various editions. (My collecting habit had taken off and then gone completely out of control during my undergrad time at UCLA, when one of my part-time jobs was worker bee at A Change of Hobbit; I'd been hanging around so much anyway that the owner, Sherry Gottlieb, and the manager, Lydia Marano, decided I might as well be on the payroll, such as it was ... but my real motive was Books At Cost. Oh, those halcyon days!)

So as I've implied, Scott Lynch's writing has a real zest and vigor to it, enough for the field to take serious notice. You don't need me to tell you how much fresh air his Ocean's 11 meets Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by way of Oliver Twist brings to the field, and when The Republic of Thieves hits I'll be right there in line, unless I'm able to coax an early copy out of someone along the way first. Lies isn't perfect, but its bravura, its solid premise, its plot convolutions, and the charisma of its not-always-likeable and artistically flawed characters slide it right past the rough patches. Red Seas is the second book, however, and the second book - anyone's second book, but especially the second of what's on the way to becoming a much longer series - is where the rubber really meets the road. You're settling down for the long haul at the same time as the excitement and adrenaline rush of your first book, and all the aspirations and bits of character and pieces of dialogue you've been storing up for years - well, all that's already happened, you've Been There and Done That, and now you have to get to work. Don't get me wrong, it's still fun - you hope it's still fun - and if you're lucky and trying hard you can gain depth and complexity, too ... but the hardest part may be to keep that freshness, the snap-and-crackle, the "if I don't get this down on the page just right - and right now! - I'm gonna explode!" 

And Red Seas does quite well. It may a better book than Lies, although it may not be quite as much fun. Along the way, I thought the pacing might turn out to be more of a problem than it was. This came at the cost of heaving some characters and the resolution of various plot points out of this book entirely and into another volume, one hopes, somewhere down the line. As a writer, I have no problem with that (see the climax to Spell of Fate for an example of my own sins in this regard) at the same time as a Zen-like aura of serenity is the only appropriate reaction as a reader. To give Mr. Lynch appropriate credit, he delivers all the most necessary payoffs in a clever and appropriate manner - no dei ex machina trotted out here - and I just had to grin at the rightness of some of the other "tune in next year for our next exciting installment!" grace notes. Assuming he knows where he's going, and so forth and so on, which I assume he does. As I said, I'll be there for the next one, and I may just clear my schedule for a week as soon as it shows up...


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