Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Manual of Detection

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Another take on the noir detective narrative applied to a creative environment. Reading it in the sequence I did it inevitably reminded me of Chabon at points, but the intent was rather different. Here it's more directly genre--focusing on a strange constructed environment. It's also a lot more light-weight, focused on adventure and the absurdity in the character's journey. The novel presents a unique feel, and achieves some great absurdist humor, through centering a lot of the intrigue not so much on action or circumstance of the crime but on the process of bureaucray and convoluted cateogies of knowledge. It often gives the sense of a thoroughly Kafkaesque world taken with far more levity and sort of fortunate bumbling through linked situations, and the worldbuilding here is really quite a nice accomplishment.

The opening chapter was one of the strongest starts to a science fiction work I've read recently, and the first half proves a delightful ride. Thrills, humor, fast pace, great creativity casually thrown out, Berry puts out everything needed for his premise. The second half is rather a let down though, forcing a pace that seems at once slower and more disjointed, and the answers given to all the setup and the actual dramatic climax are far less interesting than the setup. Still, it's an interesting and very enjoyable work, and I look forward to reading more by the author. Hopefully he can follow through more effectively and reach to a bit more substance--but even if he just matches Manual of Detection it'll probably be worth reading.

Similar to and better than: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

Similar to and worse than: The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

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