Hype – it invokes both eagerness and dread, and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch has certainly had its fair share of hype over the last year. Rumblings began in 2005 with a few lone voices like Jay Tomio exclaiming excellence. It peaked in 2006 when and unimpressed reviewer stepped over that invisible line and actually accused other reviewers of taking bribes, invoking a virtual firestorm across the net. Since then, the book has topped many best-of lists of fanboys/girls and bloggers. All the while I’m sure Lynch can barely contain his excitement of the attention his debut has received.
So, does The Lies of Locke Lamora live up to the hype? Was my bribe big enough to make me sing its praises? The short answer is yes to the former and that I’m still waiting for that mythological big payout I’m sure to receive for all the positive reviews I write.
Everybody loves a good story about con artists – and this is a very good story about the Gentlemen Bastards, con artists extraordinaire. We meet the young orphan Locke Lamora and follow him though moments in his childhood as he is trained to become the infamous Thorn of Camorr. In parallel we follow an older Locke, leading the Gentlemen Bastards in a grand scheme as he relieves a noble family of disgustingly large sums of money. As we expect, things get complicated on a number of fronts – a power grab for the rule of Camorr’s underworld and the secret police manage to snare Locke and his brilliantly mischievous gang.
The Lies of Locke Lamora delivers in spite of the hype because it succeeds exactly as advertised – this book is just plain fun. The writing flows decently well for a first novel and the plot grips you early. Lynch taps into that unexplainable sympathy and magnetism we all feel for that loveable rogue – the guy we know is bad, a bastard, but secretly are convinced is actually a nice guy – that guy that the women hate to love and men love to hate. The witty dialogue, while overdone at times, captures that ideal and genuine like for a merry band of thieves sticking it the upper class.
Characterization is present, but to be honest, only one or two characters really come off greater than some paper-machete cliché. It’s the plot that succeeds here. The story that’s told is fun, contains numerous twists that are both anticipated and not, while not being too perfect and wrapping everything up in a neat ‘happily ever after’ ending.
Now, this book is far from perfect – it suffers, greatly at times, from the inconsistency of a first-time novel. The dialogue ranges from witty and realistic to silly and awful – the first time I read the word ‘savvy’, a clear copy right out of Pirates of the Caribbean, I had to put the book down for a while. I could have screamed at a few oversights that were made by a supposedly brilliant gang of con artists that could keep their secret so well and fool everyone. There are also at least one too many instances of survival in a situation of certain death.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is not a book offering new and wondering insights to the human condition. No political statement is made. It is simply a great story – action packed, full of humor, hate and revenge. I couldn’t have put the book down during the final hundred pages if…(fill in the blank with something good).
The Lies of Locke Lamora earns a solid 7.5/10 – the plot should pull it even higher, but the minor annoyances of the first-time novel keep slightly lower. This book is easy to recommend to nearly anyone. As you may expect with such a successful debut, a sequel (actually 6 of them) is in the works (Red Seas Under Red Skies is due out in July ’07), but this book stands on its own for those of us not looking to invest in yet another unfinished series – don’t let the fear of a series stop you from reading this one.