The Nitty-Gritty Details
Author: John Myers Myers
Publisher: Ace Trade Paperbacks, 1949
Blurb: In this classic of fantasy fiction, John Myers transports readers to a world as limitless as the human imagination, where a shipwrecked American meets up with Robin Hood, Beowulf, Huck Finn, and countless others on the adventure of a lifetime.
This might be the first negative review I’ve written on here. It’s definitely the first DNF (did not finish) book that I can remember in…well, a really freakin’ long time. And that’s really disappointing to me, because I was really excited about this book.
I can’t remember how I discovered it, but when I read it’s initial premise, I was really excited about it. It was a book I thought, potentially, could be considered a comparative title to the series I’m currently writing. Of course, I needed to read it to see if it worked as a comp, but I’ve never really been able to find any comparative titles, so I was really excited about the prospect. Even if it didn’t work (and it didn’t), the premise definitely seemed really interesting. I was excited to see all of these other, familiar stories interwoven and how the main character, who was unfamiliar with those worlds existing except in fiction, would respond.
But I only got halfway through before I put it down in exchange for an ARC.
Here were my issues with it.
One, I could not connect with the main character. Sure, in the forward, it mentioned how he starts off as an ass (okay, they wrote it much more poetically than that) before he grows on you, but he never did. I didn’t like his cocky attitude or how he always assumed he was better than everyone else, though I was impressed that he admitted it aloud, from time to time, and he was aware of his own shortcomings and embraced them. I’ve fallen in love with cocky characters before and connected with characters I have nothing in common with, but not with Shandon Silverlock.
Secondly, I just wanted the book to…go somewhere. Shandon gets shipwrecked and then finds himself in the Commonwealth and you’d assume his main goal would be to return home. Instead, he simply pops between character and adventure, helping when he’s able, before moving onto the next group or problem. Perhaps if this was all moving towards something bigger or tied into a larger plot, I could get behind it. Like in The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. There are a lot of subplots going on, smaller heists and things that need to be accomplished alongside the main storyline. Yet I enjoyed going off of those side quests, if you will. They added, not subtracted, from the main quest. With Silverlock, I just got annoyed. I wanted to know what the main quest was, yet could never figure that out. Instead, these characters would just randomly show up while Shandon was adventuring, make an appearance and fulfill whatever joke or special appearance they were meant to, and then go along their way. It just irked me. Everything felt…random. Unfocused.
I also was a bit confused as to Shandon’s reaction. I was totally okay that he didn’t have the, “Holy shit, how did these characters come to life?!” reaction that was expected. But he didn’t even acknowledge that he was living in works of fiction made real, whether he believed it or not. He just had no opinion whatsoever, just accepting things as reality and moving forward with it. Which I guess is a response, but I didn’t really understand how that was his response. He was college educated, as he liked to point out. Surely he would have recognized some of them and that would have drawn out an emotional response?
I’ve read my fair share, but I know I missed a lot of the references. In some ways, I enjoyed hunting for the next reference or waiting to see what new character would make an appearance–and become stoked when I guessed the clues correctly before their identity was revealed, as I did with Beowulf and Don Quixote. Yet at the same time, I think I was frustrated just enough, wondering what the main conflict was, that I found the onslaught of references annoying, instead of pleasurable, like each discovery is in say, James A. Owen’s The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, for instance.
So…yeah. After some encouragement by my boyfriend (because I really don’t like to DNF a book), I put Silverlock down. Disappointed, definitely, but honestly? The book I’m currently reading is so good, I haven’t given the decision too much reflection.