When you want to start a story, you basically have to make a decision between two choices: start slow with the world building, or go in fast, right into the action. Like in a movie – sometimes, stories even start right at their end, and then you get a flash back telling you how the heroes reached that point you first met them. It’s used in novels quite often, really. I sometimes think this approach is one of the hallmarks of urban fantasy.
While a slow build up is sometimes frowned upon, the latter approach has advantages and disadvantages in balance. Because if your story takes place in a world that is profoundly different from the reader’s everyday life, going in with a lot of disturb words and concepts can easily lead to losing the reader within the first pages.
I mention this because Lou starts his story smack in the middle of a fight. And I totally get what the desired effect is – sadly, it isn’t working quite as expected. That’s mainly because there are really a lot of people here, and I know none of them and have trouble distinguishing them. (There is a short story in this series – let’s call it #0.5 – that takes place before this tale, but alas, I haven’t read it and so I’m not as familiar with this group of heroes as I should be to enjoy the starting show.
But that’s the beginning. Forewarned is forearmed, they say, so be aware, potential reader: The start of this story is something you have to chump through. Like an eagle first has to crack the shell of the tortoise before he can get to the meat. And cracking a shell is tedious work. (Just ask your local eagle.)
Unfortunately, this beginning sets the tone for everything that follows. For book number one in a series, there is surprisingly little (read: none) introduction for the reader. And always the people are talking about past events.
And it doesn’t get better. More and more people enter the stage who are totally new to the reader, but already known to the protagonists, so clearly introductions are in no way called for.
To make matters worse – people are sometimes referred to by their first name or their family name, but rarely with the full name. Sometimes they are referred to by a title or a description, like the dwarf or the automat. Again, rarely the full set, so it takes a while to figure out that Xiao and Kang and the professor and the automat are all the same entity. (Why an automat smokes a pipe and fears traveling without a good chef is beyond me, by the way – must be mechanical taste buds at work here.)
In the end, the constant onslaught of characters without introductions and a lot of question marks (sentient mechanical beings – how, without micro processors?) proved to tough a nut for me to crack. I just wasn’t able to get into the story. By chapter 4, I was still clueless, and despite the very short burst of action at the start, nothing was really happening. No recognizable plot, just a lot of talking about stuff I couldn’t understand because I was missing all the informations.
If you are familiar with the prelude to this story, you might be in a different situation. But I find nothing there promising me something worthwhile if I kept on reading.
So this is a DNF for me.