Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Buried Pyramid

I'm not at all familiar with Jane Lindskold, I must confess, but she's apparently quite popular, as this book was a challenge to get from the local library, and moreover was impossible to renew. I was put on its trail by a very favourable description on Alan Robson's book reviews page, a site I thoroughly recommend for readers of scifi and other genre fiction.
And I can see why Robson enjoyed The Buried Pyramid. It's a very fun, exciting book. The first three quarters are a rip-roaring adventure in the Haggard or Burroughs (or, if you must, the Indiana Jones) style, a travelogue across exotic lands with dashes of adventure and intrigue along the way. Apart from some niggling editorial glitches like disappearing punctuation, this is a wonderful read. Well, there is another problem which soured my enjoyment of this part of the book, but we'll get to that in a bit.

The last quarter involves an audacious plot twist that changes the tone and the very concept of the book. This in itself, I don't have a problem with, and it is handled very well here, with the breakneck pace and sense of fun from earlier on left intact. It is the details that led to my frustration, with many questions left unanswered. Sadly these weren't questions of the "ooh, isn't this intriguing, I wonder what it means?" sort, but of the "why did this happen?", "what was the point of doing that?" and "how does that serve the story?" sort. The most frustrating thing about these problems is that a more careful proofreading could have caught them and led to them being sorted out.

This editorial blindness also perhaps accounts for the problem that distracts from the otherwise excellent first, pre-twist, part of the book. The heroes are occasionally sent messages by a mysterious ally who warns them about the perils that surround the party. Of course, as is the tradition of these things, the messages are written in code, and whenever the heroes receive one, we're treated to delicious passages of them sitting around with pencils and paper, trying to work out the key to unlocking the codes. The problem with this ongoing plot thread is that it's quite clear from the beginning who the mysterious benefactor is. It's certainly arguable that Lindskold is making no atempt to hide this person's identity, and that it's supposed to be obvious, but all evidence points to the contrary, especially the climax of the novel in which the revelation is treated as being one last, quite important, loose end that needs tying up. Adding to the frustration is the fact that editorial laxness leads to one character correctly working out the identity of the message writer both at the climax and earlier on, around the point at which the plot takes its interesting turn. I've read and re-read the bit in question, thinking perhaps I've missed or mininterpreted something, but it's quite clear that the hero discovers the identity of her ally 117 pages before she, er, discovers the identity of her ally...Surely that's something an editor should pick up?

All that said, The Buried Pyramid is a good fun read. I think it's perfect for the younger reader, who'd be sophisticated enough to follow the subtleties, but perhaps not so on-the-ball that they'd pick up on the klunky bits that led to me not enjoying it as much as I could have. Still, well worth a read, especially if your literary diet has been devoid of fun of late.

No comments:

Post a Comment