Yesterday I mentioned some of the good points of George Bryan Polivka’s Blaggard’s Moon. But I also said there were negatives. I'll begin with some minor points I think are useful information, not major issues.
Violence. Remember what I said about realism? Pirates were a bloody lot, and while the actual gore is limited, there's plenty of violence. If you can get past the first chapter or so, you'll have a good idea what's ahead. It will probably be well within most readers' tolerance.
Slow reading. NOT BORING! They aren't the same thing. I just mean that this isn't the sort of book I'd speed read. It lends itself to a more leisurely pace.
Resolution. This is a serious one. And now, some Literature:
"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. ..."
The same goes for stories. I don't know why, but recently I've encountered a spate of stories that were great until near the end, where they took a catastrophic turn. Like flying a plane, takeoff and landing are the tricky bits.
So, without indulging in spoilers, I'll just say that there's a situation set up that simply evaporates, and what should have been a climactic encounter suddenly transmogrifies into Bambi Meets Godzilla. (To make matters worse, the justification for the dénouement simply doesn't work on two or three grounds. I didn't believe it, because it was a clear case where something happened only because the author said so.)
Similarly, the resolution of Delany's initial problem struck me as unlikely on several grounds, among them
1. Torture-happy necromancers are no more likely than pirates to be Really Nice Guys deep down and
2. Demons, being worse than pirates, would actually dance a jig in response to the mourning of the innocent.
Takeaway. The message readers are likely to pick up isn't uniformly good. It's quite possible to conclude that the only way to stop one evil is with an even more insidious evil--doing evil that good may come of it. Manipulative hypocrite conquers ordinary pirate, under-dressed Satanists overcome another ordinary pirate: the only good that comes from good is that it sometimes gets you off the hook. Or shot.
Now, as famous pirate humorist Skeel Barris said to a late friend who had just been shot through the brain, "I see what you're thinking." I suspect that the resolution/takeaway glitches derive from an attempt to show that the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God, or perhaps that whoever takes up the sword shall die by the sword. But these points could have been better made in other ways--and without the moral and spiritual ambiguity that arises here.
Conclusion. So I went from strongly in favor of the story to (at best) ambivalent, and that in the last sixty pages. Polivka is a great writer, and the story's about worth it anyway. But for me it's too close to call. Many readers will at most have a nagging feeling that something's wrong. They may agree with my assessment or not. If you're thinking of buying this book, check the reviews carefully first. Then flip a coin.
The rest of the CSFF blog tour probably won't be so indecisive:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson
1 year ago