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July 23, 2009

The Dark Volume, The Manual of Detection

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 7:47 pm

Mild spoilers for The Dark Volume (bad) and The Manual of Detection (good), so I guess I should put in a cut.

The Dark Volume (Gordon Dahlquist): Ok, so this is the sequel to Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, and once again I find myself slogging through a sequel hoping it will be different from the first book and resolve some dangling plot ends, and once again I find myself burned. Clearly what I need is a sassy gay friend to explain that I am just not that into it. Or something.

Anyway, yeah, so this is basically more of the same, only it’s not really charming after twelve hundred pages of it. One of the things I liked about the first book was that the antagonists were interesting and had Plans Going On. But what’s become steadily more apparent is that the protagonists are much less interesting and basically have no plans whatsoever. So they run around occasionally bumping into the antagonists’ plans and upsetting them accidentally, and I’d really like more proactiveness from my protagonists.

The Manual of Detection (Jedediah Berry): This is a popular selection from the ifMUD bookclub, with reviews by mcp and, hmm, maybe nobody else. I thought there was somebody, though. Anyway!

Whenever you read two books in a row you inevitably notice thematic similarities but with these two I just read the comparisons are pretty nuts. There’s, let’s see, dreams, the unconscious mind, order vs chaos, corruption at the top, knowledge, spying.. but despite this list they’re not alike at all. For one thing, The Manual of Detection is about half as long but roughly three times as good. But more to the point, The Dark Volume is a massive hunk of conspiracy and plot, whereas this book is basically an Alice-in-Wonderland style vision quest (or perhaps it’s more like The Eyre Affair, as written by someone with a more-restrained sense of humor). It is charmingly but not excessively self-referential and doesn’t seem to be striving to be about anything or to juggle the weight of a huge plot, but it has enough thematic meat not to feel like a waste of time.

It is also one of those books you are best off not knowing much about, so I will knock off here. Recommended!


  1. I liked both of these books. Interesting you didn’t care for The Dark Volume–it seemed to me to be so much like the first Glass Books that they could have been separated at birth. They are about conspiracy and plot, but taken alone, the plots are a pretty broad homage to “that kind” of fiction. What worked for me, in both volumes, was the mass of details, like how each character, even minor minions, has their own personality. That’s one of the things keeping them from being puzzle box books, I think–the casts.

    (And regarding an earlier post–I was surprised by the comedy in Moby Dick too. I think a lot of the great image of someone being so fed up with the world that he is overtaken by a desire to run out into the street and start knocking off people’s hats.)

    Comment by Caleb — August 2, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  2. Yeah, I think I actively get resentful when books are really long and then don’t have a bang-up resolution (this was part of my gripe with The Blade Itself, although that did in fact have a final resolution in the last book). Glass Books actually did have a pretty good finale, I thought (even though it didn’t tie everything off), which then made me angry when a bunch of the resolution was undone in the next book.

    And yeah, a lot of great images in Moby-Dick. The ratio of comedy to other stuff shifts around as the book goes on, but definitely stuff worth reading all the way through.

    Comment by inky — August 2, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

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