Week 1 of the Lies of Locke Lamora readalong is now up, and here are the questions!
1. If this is your first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, what do you think of it so far? If this is a re-read for you, how does the book stand up to rereading?
It’s my first time. I found the book instantly engaging and very easy to get into; it’s full of big, enjoyable characters, the dialogue is hilarious, and there’s plenty of drama and fun in the plotline without the cliffhangers feeling like a soap-opera. I’m also really enjoying the camaraderie between the Gentleman Bastards – I’m a sucker for some good male bonding and Lynch does it perfectly, all understated affection and perverse humour.
2. At last count, I found three time lines: Locke as as a 20-something adult, Locke meeting Father Chains for the first time, and Locke as a younger child in Shades Hill. How are you doing with the Flashback within a flashback style of introducing characters and the world?
I’m fine with that. I like a bit of complexity in my books, and I always enjoy character development that’s done by showing pivotal moments in people’s lives and how they react to them; interwoven timelines often provide some very illuminating comparisons when they’re used in that way, in fact they’re a trick I like to use myself precisely because of that. I also think the stories-within-stories model fits very well in a book about a chameleonic con artist – people within people, scams within scams.
3. Speaking of the world, what do you think of Camorr and Lynch’s world building?
It’s interesting. I’ll be fascinated to see whether the elderglass becomes relevant to the plot at any point, or whether it will just stay a mystery for background colour and depth. I do like Lynch’s inclusion of alchemy, which at present is feeling like a cross between chemistry, genetic engineering and magic; it’s brilliantly Renaissance in feel while at the same time inextricably fantastical. For me I’d say that’s the one element that’s tying the world together, since it provides an intuitive link between the apparently incidental alien-relics backdrop and the human and social side of Lynch’s world.
As far as the people and society go, as a lifelong fantasy fan the society of Camorr very much feels like home territory for me – nobles and rogues, foreigners based on recognisable national stereotypes, all rattling-good-yarn type stuff. But it’s intelligently and lucidly done – Lynch’s descriptive style is gorgeous, clear as a bell – and in any case I’d say it’s necessary to make Locke’s confidence tricks accessible to the reader. It would be hard to be carried along with the mischievous glee of pulling the wool over someone if you couldn’t so readily picture the characters Locke is creating and the people he’s fooling with them.
A certain element of pantomime is inevitable if you’re writing about this kind of thing, I think; con tricks are based on trust, trust is based on social interactions, and social interactions are really, really hard to understate in prose fiction if they’re completely alien to the reader. (Unless you’re Ursula le Guin, but who is). I already find the precise descriptions of social niceties like bowing and hand gestures a little intrusive; if I was having to plough through an explanation of why every character Locke tries it on with has their particular emotional reaction, I suspect the book would already have taken a flying lesson across the room. As it is, I can rely on a lifetime of accumulated understanding about my own world, but acknowledge that rulebreaking is OK because the serial numbers are filed off…
4. Father Chains and the death offering. . . quite the code of honor for thieves, isn’t it? What kind of person do you think Chains is going to mold Locke into?
I’m not quite sure how this question is relevant given that the Locke-as-adult timeline is actually showing us that simultaneously. All I have to do if I want to find out is wait and see..!
I will say, though, that the whole tone of the book speaks the lighter side of roguery. We’ve got a disreputable but tacitly approved-of thieves’ god, a mentor who describes himself as a “crooked old poser” and a child saved from a fate worse than death by the fact his notional owner is driven more by greed than malice; this is in the social comedy ballpark, not the violent, nasty and dark one. Plus, the young Locke is painted as a child with a strong sense of social justice, even if his background, natural talents and methodology are a wee tad suspect – I’ve read a few things over time about how to make a crooked or roguish main character appealing, and a Robin Hood archetype is an excellent way to do that, so that would be my prediction for his adult self.
5. It’s been a while since I read this, and I’d forgotten how much of the beginning of the book is pure set up, for the characters, the plot, and the world. Generally speaking, do you prefer set up and world building done this way, or do you prefer to be thrown into the deep end with what’s happening?
Good question. As a writer, unless I can see a ready way to combine action and exposition fluidly, my natural tendency is to world-build first and start the action later. However, having had the pleasure John Ayliff‘s commentary on some of my work, it’s possible I err on the side of caution there and ought to think more about getting things started quicker. To be fair, John is a hard sci-fi writer with a background in the games industry, which puts him approximately 180 degrees around the circle of speculative fiction from me – high fantasy is the lit-fic of the speculative spectrum anyway, and I’d put myself at the lower end of the pretentious bracket even within that. But even I read back over my own first drafts and wonder how the hell I fitted that much verbiage in. Usually rapidly followed by an editing run in which I remove everything that smacks of me trying to expound the world to my own satisfaction before I can describe it to a reader.
6. If you’ve already started attempting to pick the pockets of your family members (or even thought about it!) raise your hand.
I’m about as subtle as Terry Pratchett’s legendary half-brick in a sock, so I’ll stick to playing rogues in D&D campaigns where success rests on a die roll, thankyou. Not to mention that I dread to think what I’d find in the pockets of a family like mine…