August 12, 2020, 06:33:03 PM

Author Topic: Last Call - Week One  (Read 4127 times)

Offline Idlewilder

Last Call - Week One
« on: June 01, 2015, 06:20:40 PM »
So I have split this down by the Prologue and Book One for this week as that was the convenient stopping point, but obviously Weeks 2-3 don't stop at such obvious places for discussion.


Week One: Prologue

Well, this got off to a bang huh? I’d be very surprised to hear of anyone who thought this was a slow start – something I found with The Anubis Gates – the Powers novel which more typically comes up when people suggest something by him.

I loved the quotes/poetry at the start of this section; they immediately brought on an eerie foreboding tone that was totally followed through on in the Prologue itself.

Georges Leon is one helluva interesting character. Sort-of instantly despicable and difficult to like or even begin to empathise with. Just what exactly has he done to his eldest son, Richard? Has he made him into some sort of husk that just acts as a sort-of radar for him to protect his ‘domain’? It was all very bizarre and the tarot cards really made the whole thing feel very dark and ominous. I liked the links to the Fisher King – this definitely has the feel of Arthurian mythology (only in 40s Vegas!) – very, very cool.

The use of Bugsy Siegel and the Flamingo Hotel is also really interesting – Tim Powers is renowned for creating insanely fantastical and layered plots that weave in and out of real-life history and historical characters. This is just such an unusual setting – very impressed so far.

Plus – we got a car chase!

Also, how amazingly disgusting was this paragraph?

Spoiler for Hiden:
Leon was bandaged up like a diapered baby. The doctors had removed his prostate gland and two feet of his large and small intestines, and his genitals had been a shredded mess that had virtually come away from the body when the doctors scissored his pants off.


Book One

Ah, our first quote from poet William Ashbless. For those unfamiliar with Ashbless’ work, I highly (highly) suggest you check out this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ashbless    ;)

Again, this book has quite the pace. I thought Powers’ writing in revealing that Crane’s wife is dead was really good and powerful, considering we had really only just met the adult Crane. All the flashbacks are really well done, and everything is just getting weirder and weirder. Yet it is a compulsive read.

It reads very much like a thriller but there’s something about the rhythm of Powers’ plotting and prose that is really unique. And not to mention the weirdness of everything that’s underlining the whole story – that card game on the Lake! What is it about water that makes everything so dangerous? (For Malazan readers the way the cards and those who are claimed by them is reminiscent of the Deck of Dragons)

I really like Ozzie and am so curious about Diana. All the characters feel well rounded to me and each have distinct tic in their dialogue that differentiate them (Ozzie is often incomprehensible, Scott is sullen, Mavranos is sarcastic).

I figured this to be set in 1990 going by the dates and ages of the characters.

So Doctor Leaky is Georges Leon’s old body, but who is stuck in there and why won’t he die? And he is inhabiting more than one person…

I don’t know a great deal about Arthurian mythology, but I found it funny that Arky’s real name is Archimedes and that he acts somewhat as Scott’s conscience. In the Disney film, The Sword in the Stone (a favourite of mine!) Archimedes is an owl who plays a very similar role to the future King Arthur. He’s a really great character – I love how important he’s become to the plot, and how his cancer is its own subplot.

Overall so far it has all the elements of a traditional epic fantasy, but is firmly set in 20th-century American west coast. Really interesting book.

So much to discuss in this though, what are everyone else’s thoughts?
« Last Edit: June 01, 2015, 06:28:36 PM by Idlewilder »
Make Another World.

Offline D_Bates

  • Story Critiquaire Extraordinaire and a Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Bridgeburner
  • *****
  • Posts: 527
  • Total likes: 223
  • Gender: Male
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2015, 12:02:32 AM »
The thread has been quiet, so I'll jump on in since I finished the first book today.

Overall I'm enjoying this. The whole plot behind the tarot cards and the gambling is very interesting. I do love the way he's using the superstitions gamblers have as key elements of the plot's progression. Using the coins or fish to guide the journey was really nice. And though I'm not a savvy gambling guru, the scenes at the table are told well enough that I have a decent idea of what's going on and the stakes involved. It's quite exciting!

So on to the finer details:

Prologue

I'm afraid to say, following on from my first impressions, I wasn't as enamored with this opener as Idlewilder was. While it certainly got off with a bang I had real problems with the action. I've no idea how Leon's wife shoots a buckshot shell from across the room and manages to blow only his lower abdomen away while he's holding a 5-6 year old boy in front of him as a shield... yea...
The boy getting a card lodged in his eye I could believe in knowing that the cards are hexed, but the idea that he's having a discussion with his mum and defending his dad mere minutes after he's been half-blinded... yea... This totally threw me out of the car chase so that I didn't even realise she was being chased.

And where was Richard in all of this? I was hoping it was him that chased after her, but it turned out to be a couple of Leon's goons. If the boy's supposed to be a brainwashed zombie of his dad's then why did he not come down to help him after he got shot? I sure as hell hope Richard comes back in some capacity later on, as at the moment he seems to have been all but forgotten.

The wound was also a contentious issue for me. While the quoted line above was indeed amazingly digusting, though I'm no doctor for sure, I do wonder how somebody survives such a gunshot to the groin. While I now know Leon is being kept alive by some voodoo magic, surely the doctors would be wondering how the fuck this guy was pulling through after such a grievous injury? Is it really possibly to just chop two feet off a person's intestines and they can pick up their life and carry on?

The good news is that at least all this madness appears to play a fundamental role to the plot later on. I do like the idea of Scott becoming this one-eyed jack from the cards. And Leon's decrepit future state as Doctor Leaky is humourous if nothing else. I just wish Powers had put a little more thought in how to get there. Scenes like this turn the story into a cartoon, just like when he followed through with Siegel's eyeball flying across the room after the assassination. How did that even happen? I thought he shot the guy in the face.

That said, I really liked Georges Leon's character. He has a sinister complexity to him, powerful, but at the same time seems to possess weaknesses. I also loved the song he had with his son. In fact the father/son dynamic was done really well... until he lifted him up as a frigging shield. Idiot plotting aside though, I think he's a good antagonist and am looking forward to know how he plays out.

Book 1

I guess I'll start by asking the question: am I the only one frustrated with how information is with-held for a chapter at a time? It was done in the prologue when it wasn't revealed that the mother shot Leon in the groin until the end of the following chapter. It was done again at the beginning here when Scott is continually referred to as Crane throughout chapter 4 with no mention of his dodgy eye. Again with the first encounter with Doctor Leaky. And again at the end of Scott's game on the boat, failing to declare whether he won the cash or not and putting you through the whole car chase and Mavranos' history before getting to that detail.
I suppose this is some stylistic technique to sustain suspense, but I'm personally finding it really annoying having to retcon my immersion, especially when it feels like there's no real reason for it. I don't get any more excitement realising that Crane is Scott at the beginning of Chapter 5 that I wouldn't have gotten from the beginning of Chapter 4. It almost feels like the author is laughing at me while saying, "Did ya get the hints? Did ya? Did ya?"

I'm with Idlewilder in thinking that Ozzie is fantastic. I cannot express how much I love this guy. As mentioned, the whole riding around using coins to direct him was brilliant. His blunt retorts to Scott...
Love it.
The way he shot down Mavranos by saying, "We get it, you're smart."
Genius.
And that whole ending at the casino,
Spoiler for Hiden:
"I'm gonna take this drink and go back to that table and kick some ass, now that they all think I'm the poster boy for Alzheimer's disease."
This just cracked me up.
I'm so hoping that he ends up having a showdown with Georges Leon at the table, even though I know the outcome of it will be him getting cheated out of his life. I don't care. I want to see this match up, so you'd better make it happen Powers!

As for the other characters, I think Mavranos is great even if he does get a bit annoying at times. Not so stoked on Scott though. He's an atypical emo hero who's been blessed with some destiny that he'll no doubt resent but will ultimately fulfill for the sake of good because, you know, hero reasons. I suppose it's as relateable a character as you can get for your average guy who's down on life and wants to be something so much more, but it really doesn't appeal to me.
I am intrigued with the dynamic of his relationship with Diana, though I'm praying to God that its maintained as a platonic brother and sister affair and that she isn't the girl he ends up living happily ever after with. I would probably bang my head on the table if that happens. I'm thinking I'm okay as I have suspicions that she's the unnamed waitress in the casino near the end of the section, but it could go either way.

Really loving the casino matches and the whole underlying plot of the tarot cards. I want to know who these Jacks are and why they're trying to kill Scott when it seems he's destined to be their almighty leader. There's a lot to like in the whole gang vs gang operation going on here, and the intrigue of the person possessing all these bodies is really nice.

There was also a blinding sentence for one of Doctor Leaky's goons. I can't find it now, but it went something along the lines of the guy's body being pear shaped and covered in a coiled ranbow of colours from all his tattoos. I thought that was fantastic character description.

What I didn't like was Chapter 10.

God almighty... this was the chapter I was dreading when I read the prologue. I hated this so, so much. The whole premise of this scene was terrible and did nothing for any of the characters involved.
Firstly, I found it really dumb how Scott went into the bathroom to piss around lubing up his glass eye. I get that he's depressed and has taken on an alcohol problem to cure the pains from the loss of his wife, but when you're in fear that someone's out to get you and could come into your house at any time, even an emotionally crippled person wouldn't fuck around like this. If Powers wanted to have the whole eye cleaning scene it should have come in way earlier, and if he wanted to remind the reader the eye existed there are other faster ways of doing it. This just made Scott look dumb.

However, even that pales in comparison to the unbelievable idiocy of knifing his own leg to get Diana to ring.
Why?
Why?
Why?
Why, when fearful that an assailant you suspect is out to kill you could surprise you at any given time, would you plan to do yourself an injury that pretty much prevents you any chance of making an escape.
Why would the super intelligent Mavranos buy in to this lunacy and help him by giving advice on how best to prepare the blade?
Why is it that he assumes after doing this injury that Diana is going to think he suffered it in his house and be by a phone with his number at hand to immediately ring and check on him?

In an earlier chapter Scott was moaning about how unfair it was that Ozzie took her away and split the family up--even though he went off to the game to make extra money for nobody but himself with seemingly no intent of putting that money towards the family funds--and he makes mention many times how much he misses her--wondering where she is and how she's doing in the thirty odd years they've been apart--yet she seems to have his contact number. Heck, for him to know that she has it means she must have rung him before. Later on it's revealed that even Ozzie doesn't know where she is or how to get in touch with her either, yet she has a contact number for him too! This girl must have some serious PI skills. If they're so psychically linked then surely she's been feeling his emotional pain after his wife has died and thus gotten in touch already.
I'm afraid this chapter just did absolutely nothing for me.

So that's my first week. Some great, some not so great. Ozzie is running the show atm with some definite foreshadowing that Mavranos will get his cancer cleared up once Scott breaks his curse. I'm intrigued to see how the Diana arc will evolve, and crossing my fingers that I'll find an action scene that doesn't make me sigh and shake my head!

On a side note, I'm noticing an awful lot of errors in the text and am curious if it's just the kindle edition or whether it's something in the paper books too. A lot of silly things like the word I'm spelt as Fm, and apostrophes skipping places such as i'ts, and lowercase letters at the start of sentences. I think I read somewhere that the Dune series was terrible for errors in its kindle translation. If that's the case here, that kinda sucks. It doesn't really bother me, but I find it pretty bad that any author's work is being degraded because the publisher converting it to a digital format is skimping on costs by using some computer scanner and not the proper editing sources to double check and clean up the glitches.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2015, 10:37:25 PM by D_Bates »
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018

Offline JMack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing contest regular
  • Writing Group
  • Big Wee Hag
  • ******
  • Posts: 7189
  • Total likes: 4891
  • Gender: Male
  • Our daily efforts are love poems to the universe.
    • Tales of Starlit Lands
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2015, 12:58:25 AM »
God, as usual David, you are way out ahead of me on the critique. I sort of read and stuff goes by, and I'm like: huh, that's sort of weird. Then I keep going.

You are more like: that jerk author! Why would he think that was smart!?

So, I'm enjoying the book. And it does seem like a stretch the sister had that number and Ozzie's. I'm not as bothered at the knifing thing. If I accept that there's a link, but it's been unused for years, then something big has to happen to renew it.

I'm also not that excited about Scott, either. The only thing that makes him admirable is his love for Susan. We assume that if she loved him, then he's worth something. But it's not enough. Hopefully, we'll get more to go on.

But the writing (barring some big plot holes) is quite strong as prose, I feel. And the magical-scientific world of the novel is really cool.

On we go!
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2015, 08:37:51 AM »
Wow, D_Bates is a critical reader!  :o  I didn't have a problem with the knife scene at all, and unlike both of you I do like Scott and find him a convincing lead. I like the weirdness of everything in the book, and let most of it wash over me as it's not exactly a standard thriller we're reading anyway...

Hey @pornokitsch have you got any thoughts as you've read this before and are a big fan?

Make Another World.

Offline D_Bates

  • Story Critiquaire Extraordinaire and a Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Bridgeburner
  • *****
  • Posts: 527
  • Total likes: 223
  • Gender: Male
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2015, 08:36:08 PM »
Yea, I am a critical reader, though I hope this doesn't come off as a critique. I'm not analysing this, just bringing up things I like as well as things I don't for the spirit of discussion and to see if someone spotted something I missed. I guess negatives always tend to stand out more than positives though.

As it turns out, I spotted something I did miss when flicking back today! Apparently the house is the original one they lived in before Ozzie left, so that explains why Diana has the number. It was also mentioned--though 3 chapters earlier in a lone paragraph--that she'd rung him a couple of times when he speared his ankle, though that was 15 years prior.

That clears up the confusion, but I'm still not a fan of this scene. I like the whole psychic link they have with each other--sort of how twins are thought to feel each others emotions. I also didn't really have a problem with him knifing his leg to contact her, but the situation felt like the wrong one to use it on. It's just such a long stretch to think that after fifteen years she'll ring the moment he plunges a knife into his leg. Mavranos helping him to do it still makes him look like a fool. And I also can't understand how anyone can do that sort of injury to themself and not scream loud enough to wake the neighours three blocks away, let alone alert the guy sitting outside. It was mentioned that he wheezed through his teeth, but come on. If somebody wants to run a kitchen knife through their thigh and let us know how loud you screamed I'd be interested to know--just make sure you douse the knife in alcohol and heat it up first...
Seriously, please don't really do that!
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018

Offline JMack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing contest regular
  • Writing Group
  • Big Wee Hag
  • ******
  • Posts: 7189
  • Total likes: 4891
  • Gender: Male
  • Our daily efforts are love poems to the universe.
    • Tales of Starlit Lands
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2015, 09:19:25 PM »
Meanwhile, I think the Susan-Ghost was pretty creepy. It's interesting how, when the ghoul or whatever it is, is first introduced you don;t have any sense its anything other than a delusion. It gradually becomes more real. Nice bit of horror.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline Arry

  • Cat of the Canals
  • Administrator
  • Elderling
  • ***
  • Posts: 5880
  • Total likes: 648
  • Gender: Female
  • Faceless
    • Tenacious Reader
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2015, 12:56:27 AM »
Apologies, I am going to have the short (and lazy?) reply for this. I am honestly on the fence, I can see some aspects I love, and others I'm not so sure about. I'm going to hold judgement until finishing.

I really like the darker overall nature of the story. What can I say? I'm a sucker for dark stories about people down on their luck.

I do understand why Scott knifed himself, but also admit to wondering why he didn't stab his arm or hand or somewhere that would still hurt like hell, but allow him full use of his legs (and not impact his mobility to as great of an extent). I don't think it bothered me as much as D_Bates, but I certainly did have a "huh?" moment where I questioned the intelligence of the exact choice he made. But, he's a depressed heavy drinker panicking and in fear for his life, so.... whatever. There were other events as well where I wondered about the the likelihood, just to realize that it is the result of something larger at play (like the fact he happened to be saved/adopted by a professional gambler. I mean, what are the odds of that? I guess they are a bit higher when you realize the larger game being played.)

(and thank you @Idlewilder for getting these discussions going!! :)
« Last Edit: June 09, 2015, 12:58:10 AM by Arry »
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.”
-- George R.R. Martin

http://www.tenaciousreader.com

http://www.speculativeherald.com

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2015, 08:38:37 AM »
I am honestly on the fence, I can see some aspects I love, and others I'm not so sure about. I'm going to hold judgement until finishing.

Hehe, I'm starting to question my own judgement as I liked this book from the start!  :o
Make Another World.

Offline D_Bates

  • Story Critiquaire Extraordinaire and a Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Bridgeburner
  • *****
  • Posts: 527
  • Total likes: 223
  • Gender: Male
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2015, 10:49:10 AM »
I didn't mention the ghost, but I'm also liking this aspect of the story too. I'm very curious to know what it is, as the whole Susan character has a lot of mystery around it. Scott obviously loves/loved her, but everyone else seems to treat her like dirt. I'm wondering whether the ghost is actually her, or a part of Scott's psyche. But then again it was talking to Mavranos, so :).

And Arry makes a fantastic point. I failed to mention it, but I also wondered why he didn't go for the shoulder instead.
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018

Offline JMack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing contest regular
  • Writing Group
  • Big Wee Hag
  • ******
  • Posts: 7189
  • Total likes: 4891
  • Gender: Male
  • Our daily efforts are love poems to the universe.
    • Tales of Starlit Lands
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2015, 11:13:25 AM »
And Arry makes a fantastic point. I failed to mention it, but I also wondered why he didn't go for the shoulder instead.
I guess Diana is a legs type of girl.  ;)
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline Jeni

Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2015, 03:13:47 PM »
Late to the discussions this month ... haven't had a much of a head for reading the past couple of weeks, so this is gonna be brief as I want to crack on...


And where was Richard in all of this? I was hoping it was him that chased after her, but it turned out to be a couple of Leon's goons. If the boy's supposed to be a brainwashed zombie of his dad's then why did he not come down to help him after he got shot? I sure as hell hope Richard comes back in some capacity later on, as at the moment he seems to have been all but forgotten.


Err... isnt Richard = Ricky Leon?

Still not a fan of the game commentary so at this point I'm quite relieved that it hasn't been constant and that we are actually getting a story.

I have to admit that overall so far this is not rocking my world....but I am enjoying it. More than I expected to, actually.

Offline D_Bates

  • Story Critiquaire Extraordinaire and a Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Bridgeburner
  • *****
  • Posts: 527
  • Total likes: 223
  • Gender: Male
Re: Last Call - Week One
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2015, 04:06:02 PM »
Err... isnt Richard = Ricky Leon?

I know that now :p. The comment was in relation to week 1 and aimed specifically at the prologue event where Richard seemed to have just sat on the bylines while all the action was happening.
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018