Wednesday 14 March 2012

The Iron Jackal

(February 2012)

Apparently if you write a steampunk book with ‘Iron’ in the title, you must have a picture of a train on the cover.

That’s the trouble with genre writing; it’s too easy to mock the conventions and for bad writers to get away with guff by sticking to them. Of course, they also give good writers something to kick against, subverting expectations and all that.

This is the third Ketty Jay novel, and it is what I believe is usually described as a ‘romp’, as we follow it’s luckless crew through a series of scrapes and misadventures. At one point they embark on what should be a completely ordinary supply run, and contrary to all expectations it turns out to be a completely ordinary supply run.

That’s what I mean about playing with the conventions. If you’re constantly on edge for the next set-piece then not having a set-piece and just knocking about some character development is actually a nice change of pace. I quite like that about this series, for every explosive battle or showdown there’s a bit more character exploration, which means you actually start to care about them as more than ciphers. And while some of them remain little more than that (the two pilots especially), it’s enjoyable to see some other supporting characters getting their time in the sun.

Even the main protagonist, Frey, has grown on me despite starting out as one of the character archetypes which pisses me off the most, the ‘Charming Loser’. Admittedly he does kick off the whole thing by making another poor choice to impress a woman, but as Macguffins go it’s fairly well done.

The epilogue contains a fairly blatant ‘to be continued..’, and despite the craven telegraphing of the next installment, I’m glad there’ll be one.

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