Mar. 13th, 2014

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Endurance: The Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told by Alfred Lansing.

A gift from someone clearing out their bookshelves. Missing its dust jacket, but otherwise in good nick.
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I'm reading Death and the Running Patterer still. It's a murder mystery set in Sydney in 1828, and the poor thing has drowned in detail. Every time a new character appears, there's a few paragraphs on his background. Every time a new building appears, there's a few paragraphs on its background. Every time a new term or situation or anything bloody thing appears, there's background about it. There is far too much of it. And it doesn't help when it's followed by "thought that Patterer" (that being the MC's occupation, which is often used by the narrator in place of his name) or inserted into a discussion between the two characters. This just seems contrived and fake.

However, I am still reading it because it's all I have to read on the bus at the moment & I have some hope that might actually be an interesting story hiding in there, it is certainly easy to read, but also I noticed something, well two things, that possibly need some further examination.

Firstly, with that much detail, the things that matter get lost. Little things like why a character has appeared in the story or what their occupation is. And there are probably details that advance the plot and develop character and all that stuff in there somewhere too.

But more important, for all this information about the setting, there is no sense that the author actually knows what he is talking about. Overcompensating? Or be because he's throwing in everything possibly relevant there's bits that don't fit together properly. Or even the occasional feeling that something isn't right (e.g. I'm fairly sure "bugger off" is an expression of more recent origin, and the New Partridge Book of Slang agrees, it says UK 1922). Like emptying three boxes of jigsaw pieces onto a table at the same time, and then throwing in a loose pieces found around the house.

When it comes to historical & world building details, more isn't always better. But it's sort of interesting to look at what (doesn't) work.


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