Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hour of the Octopus - Joel Rosenberg

   1994; 263 pages.  Book #2 (out of 2) in the D’Shai series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 5*/10.

    Kami Dan’Shir is called many things.  Kami Khuzud.  Historical Master.  Eldest son.  Discoverer of Truths.  And there are some of those among the nobility who use much less complimentary terms to describe him.

    He is also very clever when it comes to solving puzzles, which almost everybody likes; and showing up the nobility, which almost nobody likes.  So when a nobleman attending a royal wedding is killed, Kami Dan’Shir is the logical choice to solve the mystery.

    Do give it your best effort, O Discoverer of Truths.  Because someone has to pay for the slaying of the nobleman.  And if you don’t find the perpetrator, the glorious ruling class will pick a scapegoat.  Someone clever.  Someone who they won’t miss at all.

    Someone like you, Kami Dan’Shir.

What’s To Like...
    If you’re the kind of person who likes detailed, complex world-building, Joel Rosenberg’s Hour of the  Octopus is the book for you.  In a nutshell, this is a sword-&-sorcery alternate universe, very similar to Rosenberg’s better known Guardians of the Flame series, which he was writing at the same time.

    Most of the book is written in the first-person (Kami’s) POV; the only exceptions being a couple of short “Interludes” scattered throughout the book.

    Kami is a juggler by trade, having recently departed from his father’s traveling acrobat troupe.  Since there is no such thing as a juggling troupe, he is deemed the founder of the guild.  This allows him to move up one social class, from the lowly peasant class to middle-of-the-pack bourgeois. Such a jump is almost unheard of in the world of D’Shai, where a strict social caste system is rigidly enforced.

    The usual Rosenberg wit is present, and the magic doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the world-building.  The wizards were my favorite characters, much akin to Terry Pratchett’s treatment of them in his Discworld series.  I particularly like the owl-transformation scene.

    The pacing was not to my taste.  The murder doesn’t take place until page 171, so for the first 2/3 of the book, we wander about with Kami, as he hobnobs with the nobility, learns how to socialize and hunt, and generally pisses off everyone around him.  But if you can make it through all that tedium, you will be treated to a well-crafted murder-mystery, with ample twists  and a satisfying conclusion.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Defalcation (n.) : the act of embezzling.
Others :  Solecism (n.); Concatenated (adj.); Delectation (n.); Indition (n., and not found anywhere by googling, so a typo, maybe?).

    She was in the same robes she had worn earlier, but she had belted them less tightly about her waist; mentally, I worked at untying the seven-bend knot over her belly.
    I smiled.  Silly, silly Kami Khuzud, my sister would have said.  What is the rush?
    You live here now; you will be in Den Oroshtai for the foreseeable future, probably forever.  Take some time; enjoy the moment, the game.  Life is to be eaten one bite at a time so that you can enjoy it, not swallowed whole to curdle untasted in the stomach.  (pg. 68)

    He tilted his head to one side.  “I do hope you know what you’re doing Kami Dan’Shir,” he said.  “It could be … inconvenient if you do not.”
    “The worst they can do is kill me,” I said.
    Dun Lidjun shook his head.  “No, the worst they can do is to kill you slowly.”  (pg. 186)

“Frank speech and long life are not often paired, Lord.”  (pg. 247 )
    This is my second Joel Rosenberg book; the other one is reviewed here.  My criticisms of the two books are pretty much the same.  Besides the main storyline not starting until late in the book, there just isn’t much action such as you’d expect in a fantasy series.  At least Not Quite Scaramouche had dragons; I don’t recall any fantasy critters here.

    I also grew tired with Kami’s/Rosenberg’s fixation with the hypocrisy of an ironclad social caste system.  It’s not that I disagree with the premise; it’s just that I resent being beaten over the head with it time and time again, at the cost of an engaging plotline.  In fairness though, Kami does get his comeuppance about this from Lord Tothtai at the end of the book.

    5 StarsHour of the Octopus is book 2 of a short-lived series.  I've never seen  Book 1 i at the used-book stores, and according to Wikipedia, a third book was written, but never published.  Wikipedia gives no hint as to why he discontinued the D’Shai series.  Perhaps it was just a matter of “one or the other”, and Guardians of the Flame seemed much more promising.

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