Monday, May 01, 2006

Dusk by Tim Lebbon

Picture this: A farmboy with latent powers he does not begin to understand has his foster parents killed in their home. By some miracle he escapes this massacre and is brought by a mysterious character to a 'wretched hive of scum and villainy.'

Ok, how about this one: Farmboy was found as a baby on a mountainside and his birth fulfills a prophecy. He must learn to deal with his magical powers before he faces off with evil.

What about this one: A group of people from all walks of life band together in a fellowship to see their weakest member through to his destiny of saving the world -- or dooming it. (one member of the fellowship might even want to take this power for their own!)

Put them all together and you don't get Wheel of the Fellowship of the Star Wars. You get Dusk by Tim Lebbon.

Now that's not to say the book was without merit. Once I realized I was reading a formulaic adventure, I settled down and enjoyed it. There were certainly some neat ideas, mostly in the forms of machines and narcotics.

One of the uses of magic in Lebbon's world is (or rather was, before a cataclysm caused by the misuse of magic 300 years previous) to animate machines. These machines are similar to machines as we know them, but are living beings of magic. They are also used as weapons of war.

The drugs are pretty good. The first we encounter is called rhellim, and it acts as a cross between viagra and the mythical spanish fly. The second, and far more interesting drug is called fledge, in its purest form allows one to wander in a sort of astral projection outside of their body. There are entire underground societies based solely upon the mining and consumption of it, for obvious reasons. The sole fleshed out member of the fellowship happens to be a fledge addict.

And it's gritty, I suppose. There are some slightly disturbing scenes that show Lebbon to be a horror writer first and foremost. There are spiders and prostitution and snakes and hints of rape. The problem is, you don't much care. The protagonists aren't people, they're hastily constructed D+D characters.

The guy on the cover is a Red Monk. He's bad and a badass. He hates magic so much that he will kill anyone and take any punishment to destroy it. The only problem is, he uses magic himself. Now Lebbon tries to convince us that it's hate or old secrets that allow Red Monks to have their limbs removed and their throat cut and still fight on like the Terminator, but there's only so much suspension of disbelief one can muster, even when reading fantasy. So let's just say these red-cloaked Jason Voorhees clones are a bit conflicted.

I can't in good conscience recommend this book to anyone save those looking for a check-your-brain-at-the-door formulaic fantasy yarn.


Collector's Notes:

Released as a trade paperback original, and considering the quality of the story, this book has little chance of being a worthwhile investment.

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