Wednesday, November 30, 2011

100 Books 69 - Maurice Broaddus' KING MAKER

Man, I was as ready to like this as I've ever been to like anything. I even put myself into full delayed gratification mode -- I was originally going to save this book as my prize for finishing NaNoWriMo (see prior post). But in that I failed; I made it maybe a week into this month before I just couldn't resist anymore -- such allure, a cross between The Wire and Arthurian Legend! -- and gave in.

But -- you feel that "but" coming, don't you? -- I'm sad to say this novel didn't quite live up to its initial promise.

This is half of a fan-damn-tastic piece of balls-out amazing fiction writing, and half a messed-up, cliche-ridden mess, more or less. The first half is the former, vivid and strange and gripping, tripping with lines of the kind of weird and heart-breakingly poetic imagery and observation that this Wyoming girl only gets to hear at 5am on Saturday mornings when her local public radio station gives it over for Snap Judgment. The legend of Arthur and the formation of his Knights of the Round Table feels like it really could be re-enacted in the sad ghettos of Indianapolis, though perhaps the rib-digging character names (King, Lott, Lady G, Wayne, Green, Dred) aren't strictly necessary. My jaw dropped. Often.

What Broaddus did with Merlin, here cast as a crazy homeless man shambling through the projects in a tinfoil hat to which he keeps adding layers, struck me as especially fine, for instance.

But once the characters are established and the world (about 90% drug-slum realism, 5% TV cop show fantasy version of that realism, 5% epic fantasy, except the magical sword is a pair of guns, etc.) is built, the book kind of collapses in on itself a bit, so that by the time the zombies (oh man, really? Zombies?) show up I was bored and disappointed and scrolling back to earlier chapters, wondering how these two halves got sewn together.

Origin stories always suffer a bit from the formula thereof, though, so I'ma give Mr. Broaddus another chance. I already have the sequel, King's Justice, loaded on my various e-reading devices. I really hope it's more like the first half of this one than the second.

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