Thursday, 11 November 2010

‘The Even’ – T.A. Moore (Morrigan Books)

One of the things I love about running this blog is how it regularly throws books at me that I would never have thought to check out but end up really enjoying. Of course, the flip side of this are the books that I would never have thought to check out and end up not getting on with at all... Still, you never know which way it’s going to go until you give it a try.
Luckily for me (especially in this themed month of ‘books that I’ve promised to read’), T.A. Moore’s ‘The Even’ ended up falling firmly into the first camp. It’s a tiny read (an incredibly slim one hundred and sixty four pages long) but still manages to pack a lot into those few pages. While it doesn’t necessarily succeed with this approach I still had a great time with the story and would be more than happy to read more in this setting.

In the point where reality and unreality almost collide lies the city of The Even; an ever-changing metropolis of forgotten gods, mystical fey and even a few humans, all ruled over by the capricious demon Yekum. Eternity is a long time to live in the same city, even if it is constantly changing, and certain jaded immortals are looking to bring about the Apocalypse; the only thing that The Even hasn’t seen happen yet.
The only person standing in their way is Faceless Lenith, the forgotten Etruscan god of death and hopeless gambler. When she is offered the chance to clear all her debts Lenith agrees to help a mysterious benefactor rescue a demon from the Land of the Dead. There is far more to this job though and Lenith must decide whether her own weary cynicism is enough reason to let The Even finally die...

I’ve mentioned this before but one of my favourite things about speculative fiction are the cityscapes that it throws up for me to walk through. The ‘whys’ of that are perhaps something for another time but suffice it to say that I will enjoy finding my way through the winding alleyways of places like New Crobuzon, Villiren and Ambergris. The Even is a totally different kind of city to these three places but it shares a lot of the same traits and has swiftly become a place that I’m looking forward to visiting again and again.
Cities anywhere (fictional or otherwise) have their own characteristics that mark them out as unique in comparison to others and Moore brings this knowledge to The Even, marking it out as a place where you’ll feel like you’re visiting it for the first time. I’ll admit that a city full of forgotten gods isn’t exactly an original setting but, in the case of The Even, you’ll feel like it is this time round. Moore achieves this by concentrating on the sense of ennui that drifts around the more powerful gods (one in particular) who have done it all and need to fill up the rest of eternity. By contrasting this with the regular denizens, who have plenty to do trying to survive, Moore gives us a city at odds with itself in a unique way and a setting that’s worth sticking around for. Lenith stands out as perhaps the one character that really understands The Even and it’s her acceptance of this that drives the plot forward in the best way, towards a conclusion with a neat little twist in the tail.

Having said all that, the plot does suffer a little in terms of the space it has to grow in and the fact that, at least as I saw it, more attention was paid to developing the background scenery than fleshing out the plot. There’s nothing wrong with the plot per se; like I said, there’s a neat twist at the end and everything fits together very well. It just felt a little bare and linear to me. Lenith may not have the time to do much else but even the minor diversions in the plot feel like part of a journey from A to B rather than a journey that’s a little more varied. The ending is left open for more to come though, from The Even, so maybe this approach will change.

‘The Even’ isn’t without its flaws (a lack of balance and a plot begging to be fleshed out more) but a flawed gem is better than no gem at all and that’s what this book is. I was captivated and now I want to read more.

Nine and a Quarter out of Ten


Walter Rhein said...

From your description, I was reminded a little bit of the film "Dark City." Are there similar elements, or am I getting the completely wrong impression?

Graeme Flory said...

I've never seen 'Dark City' so couldn't really say :o) From what I've heard, 'Dark City' sounds like just my kind of thing so I don't know why I haven't got round to watching it yet...