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Red Seas Under Red Skies
Scott Lynch
Gollancz/Bantam Spectra, 608/576 pages

Red Seas Under Red Skies
Red Seas Under Red Skies
Scott Lynch
Scott Lynch was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978 and currently lives in Wisconsin with his fiancee. He moonlights as a game designer and volunteer firefighter. The Lies of Locke Lamora was his first novel.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora
SF Site Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Scott Lynch's first novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, got a fair amount of approving notice last year, but I missed it. I was happy to try the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies. I can say that it is not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy its successor -- though I suspect that would be the preferred course of action. (There are a number of references to the past in the new book that I am sure are clearer if you have read the first one.) And I can say that I can see why readers enjoyed the The Lies of Locke Lamora: Red Seas Under Red Skies is a good deal of fun. That said, it isn't anything earth-shaking -- the plot elements, and the fantastical elements, are, well, pretty familiar. And the general construction of the plot had me shaking my head -- again and again, I simply didn't believe in the good fortune visited on the main characters. And for a final complaint, I have to say that the caper aspect of the book -- the plot the main characters execute against one of the villains -- is something of a letdown. But I must say that all these quibbles run together seem unfair -- in the end, I really did like the book.

The book is structured just a bit unusually, opening with a scene extracted from late in the book, for no particular reason. (It is a dramatic scene, but so?) And for the first half of the story, chapters set in the present of the action alternate with flashback chapters. That works OK (though the strategy is then abandoned) -- but again I'm not entirely sure I agree with the artistic decision, or see the necessity. I think the book would have worked as well told in straight chronological fashion. But so be it -- I can't really say that the out of order narrative causes the reader serious problems either.

So what happens? Locke Lamora and his friend Jean Tannen have apparently suffered a disastrous setback (presumably detailed in The Lies of Locke Lamora), leading to the deaths of all their compatriots, and a serious injury for Locke. On the bright side, they did defeat an evil Karthain Bondsmage. Eventually they land in the city of Tal Verrar, and they hatch a plot to steal from the Sinspire, an exclusive gambling den. However, their plans are complicated by the politics of Tal Verrar, which seem to rotate about three poles: the proprietor of the Sinspire; the military leader of the city, the Archon; and the political leaders, the Priori. Locke and Jean end up forced to table their Sinspire plans after the Archon dragoons them into a plot to increase his influence by exaggerating the danger of piracy. In essence, the two landlubbers are expected to take over a pirate ship and incite sufficient action near Tal Verrar that the need for an increase in the Archon's power will become obvious.

Thus, about halfway through, the novel seems to switch from a caper story to a pirate story. And pretty successfully. Locke and Jean are captured by REAL pirates -- female pirates, yet, complete with a love interest for Jean. Naturally we learn that these pirates are more or less good guys -- given how bad the legitimate authorities are this may not be a surprise. Which really puts the two in a bind -- how can they stay on the "right" side but still discharge their (rather well enforced) obligations to the Archon, not to mention getting a chance to finish their Sinspire caper. It all works out acceptably -- if, as I suggested, not ideally. The pirate action scenes are extremely well done. The characters are nicely imagined and portrayed. The fantastical elements are less impressive -- there is nothing much new here. In sum -- a good book, not a great one.

Copyright © 2007 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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