Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quartet & Triptych by Matthew Hughes

Let me begin with a little background concerning my taste in stories.  I enjoy a good caper novel or movie.  That is important when discussing this story.  I am also a Jack Vance fan.  The first novel of the Demon Prince series ("Star King") hooked me as a fan.  I remember the disappointment when I read further into the series but could not find all of the books.  Later, DAW Books reprinted the series and had Vance finish it.  I never read the final 2 novels.  The upcoming Science Fiction Experience 2012 might be a good time to re-read the early books and finish reading the rest of the series.  In the words of Peter David, "But I Digress...". 

Getting back to the novel at hand.  This was one that I was supposed to review for the now defunct "Walker of Worlds" site.  Mark gave me three books that I never finished writing the reviews.  One of my goals for December is to get these written.  So consider this an epilog to a much missed review site. 

Matthew Hughes has been named the heir apparent to Jack Vance.  His style of writing, the names of the characters, and the exotic locals back this up.  Case in point:  The main character in "Quartet & Triptych" is master thief Luff Imbrey.  Luff is planning to steal one of the rare eidolons left behind when the alien Iphigenza race committed ritual suicide.  Unfortunately for Luff, it is located in a mutable maze that a nobleman had build to torture his enemies.  So he decides to "liberate" the life mask of a noblewoman who knows how to navigate the maze.  The life mask is an intriguing creation.  It traps the essence of the person in a mask that, when put on by another, allows them to speak to the wearer of the mask.  The noblewoman strikes a slightly different deal with Luff.  It is one that proves to be much more lucrative. Luff develops the perfect plan that, in the style of the classic caper novel, falls apart.  This short novel tells the story of what happens to the duo as they try to salvage their plan. 

Did I like the novel?  Yes and no.  Hughes is very talented when it comes to innovative concepts and descriptions.  His characters are interesting.  But I thought that the plot tended to drift too much for such a short novel.  If it had been more focused, I would have liked it more.  As it is, I think this is an interesting failure.  Looking at other peoples' reviews on Goodreads.com, I find myself in the minority.  Sometimes, a story does not connect with every reader.  I am one of the few that was disappointed with this story.  Based on what I read here, I will give Matthew Hughes' work another try.  I saw enough to interest me in giving this author a second chance.

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