Book Report: Black Brillion
9 November 2005, 11:50 AM
Black Brillion is a pretty good book, not great, flawed, but fun and inventive. It’s a mishmash of genres—the mismatched pair of cops, the witty banter, the deep and symbolic Jungian philosophy, the mystery, the trippy anything-goes far future fantasy, the graft. It’s all over the place. There are funny bits, which are funny, which is a good thing. Some of the yucky bits are really yucky. Some of the tossed-off far-future fantasy bits are very nice. Some of the Jungian philosophy isn’t as dreadful as you would expect it to be.
Matthew Hughes is good at words, particularly good at making up words that feel good in the mouth and seem somehow inevitable. The cops from the Bureau of Scrutiny are called scroots, for instance, and somehow you wonder why we haven’t been calling police detectives scroots all along. On the other hand, he uses an overly precious and mannered rhythm in his dialogue, which (I admit) works extremely well when it works, and gets right up my nose when it doesn’t. “Fortunately, the anomaly, though powerful, was small in size. A few moments and we were clear of its effects.” I can become inured to that sort of thing, but there had better be a reward for it. And the rewards here are pieces, small gems, some of them lovely, but none of them really big.
In other words, I had fun reading it, and I was annoyed by it on occasion, and I suspect that a few years from now I’ll pick it up again at a different library, and not realize that I’ve read it before until I am forty pages in.
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,