Tuesday, March 14, 2006

06.13 Dance Of Knives by Donna McMahon


Dance Of Knives by Donna McMahon
Trade, Tor, 2001

This is a tough review to write because I wanted to like this book more than I ended up doing. I heard about it because the author was giving a talk to a local sci-fi group and the blurb sounded intriguing.

Dance of Knives is set in a twenty-second century North America drastically altered by rises in sea levels, catastrophic earthquakes, plague pandemics, and the draconian social engineering of the United States, which sought to solve the problems of poverty and crime by massive relocation of inner-city residents. The city of Vancouver is a microcosm of these changes, with its drowned harbour, quake-ravaged Downtown area, enormous population of impoverished American refugees, and many gangs and tongs that control both drugs and industry; it's also a vital example of recovery, for it's still a busy seaport, and the headquarters for the various industry Guilds which are gradually rebuilding the economy of the Pacific Northwest.

The story revolves around Klale, a young woman who has left the powerful Fishers Guild in Prince Rupert and come to the city to find her own way. She ends up at a local Downtown bar where she's taken under the wing of Toni, a woman with a mysterious past. Also integral to the story is am enigmatic character named Blade who is a "tool" for a tong lord. Tools are humans who have been taken at a young age and behaviorally modified and physically enhanced so that they become a tool (enforcer, assassin, etc.) for thair master.

The plot remains fairly tight before spinning a bit out of control towards the end. I really enjoyed the mileu and the various details that went into making the futuristic PNW interesting. There is extra fun in reading about a place with which you are already familiar and the author clearly loves her home.

The characterizations were unfortunately the weakest part of the novel. Klale often acted extremely annoying in that she she would do things that seemed out of the created character. You know, I think the problem for me was that the book felt epicene and the male characters were badly written. I understand that it's hypocritical to say this but hopefully I will be more open to the deficiencies in other novels. As you can tell, I am ambivalent about this novel.

In many respects, I loved the detailed futuristic world that I felt could easily be one of many possible coming times. The story engaged me intermittently however in the end I had the most empathy and interest with Blade who was really a supporting character in the book.

Apparently Donna McMahon is at work on a sequel to this bokk and I would take a chance on reading it. That's about the best I can give here.


Olman Feelyus said...

Hmmmm. Kind of sounds like there was some good stuff in there, but overall you weren't having too good of a time reading it. It can really kill a book if the characters are lame. I'll get to it at some point.

Crumbolst said...

This gives new meaning to, "You're such a tool."

beemused said...

A futuristic Vancouver sounds really cool (the Guild thing sounds so backwards and medieval, but I guess Van has and always would be a city of guilds).