Thursday, 23 September 2010

Kage Baker PS

Something I forgot to mention about Kage Baker is that I like the attention she pays to the mechanics of writing. For example, the first book mostly takes place in Tudor England, so there's some Elizabethan-y language in it, when the owner of the house holds feasts and such like. But no one wants a whole book where all the dialogue is like that, and she unobtrusively makes it clear that when the lovers are alone they talk Latin, as a more straightforward language. And when the immortals are alone they speak something they call Cinema Standard, which is essentially the language of golden age Hollywood, as spoken by the people in the future who tell them what to do. So she has this distinction between the different types of English which marks out the strangeness of the immortals' situation, but it's far from laboured, and you could ignore it and just get on with the story. Likewise a certain amount of explication is inevitable in a series of books like this, and at the start of most of the books in the series it is necessary to recap the basic premise of immortal agents controlled by people in the future, working to preserve things which would otherwise be destroyed. But she makes it so that it's a different person who explains it each time, and they each present it differently, with slightly contradictory accounts of how it all started, and that way she not only shows the personality of that character but also introduces to the reader suspicions about the reliability of certain accounts. So if you come across a book from the middle of the series without reading the earlier ones you still understand the premise; but if, like me, you read all the books in order as fast as you can get your hands on them, you still find these bits interesting and not just explication blah blah blah. I think it's good craft.

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