Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Little Bit Late (Sorry!)

ISBN-10: 0765334224
ISBN-13: 9780765334220
Published: Tor Books, 09/24/2013
Pages: 304
Language: English
I hate to miss an interesting genre author when he or she comes by Flyleaf, but I was unfortunately waylaid by illness when Steven Brust visited to promote The Incrementalists, a fantasy (in a loose sense) novel he co-wrote with Skyler White (who is, I'm sure, very tired of the Breaking Bad jokes). I was glad to hear the event went swimmingly even without my august presence or my prized official endorsement here on the blog. Still, I thought it would be a shame not to devote a little internet space to a fun and fascinating book. The Incrementalists concerns a kind of secret society that has been operating behind the scenes since the beginning of mankind, whose purpose is to cautiously (with some major exceptions) nudge humanity in the right directions. 

Unlike most secret orders found in books or other media, the Incrementalists stay true to their name by trying to make the world a little better at a time-- the relatively narrow focus of their ambitions is actually one of the most interesting parts of the book's premise. Another interesting aspect: the Incrementalists have no real hierarchy, and opinions as to what constitutes "better" vary widely among the group. This lends an essential philosophical underpinning to the novel, which quickly becomes embroiled in heady arguments and brain-splitting flights of fancy (there's a whole 'nother thing involving a garden made out of memories that I can't even get into). Somehow, this didacticism avoids becoming pretentious or irritating-- no mean feat, trust me. If you're looking for a thrill-ride through a fantastical Las Vegas, you won't find it here. The Incrementalists is much more concerned with ideas than car chases, and if you approach the novel as thoughtfully as it is constructed, the result is much more intriguing. Don't check your brain at the door, in other words, but do buy this book.

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