Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Quantum Thief

This is Rajaniemi’s debut novel, which - rumour has it - sold to Gollancz on the basis of the first chapter alone. The back cover blurb of this advance reader copy - which may or may not be the same as the final blurb - tells us it comes from “the same team that brought you Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Joe Hill” and exhorts us to “be there from the start.”

I hate this sort of hype. I'm the sort of dreary guy whose natural reaction is to sneer "yeah, sure!" and go over to the remaindered books and second hand shelves looking for the undiscovered rubies in the dust. I can't help feeling that it steals part of the joy of a great book, that sense of discovering something unexpectedly marvelous. 

I understand why it's there but we seem to be on a hype rollercoaster these days....

 Long gone are the days when new writers were given a few books to hit their stride before being hyped to hills, or when a reputation was based on a solid track record. I suppose it increases the sales, and give today’s hype-addicted book blogosphere (and writing that phrase leaves me a little nauseous) something to get its pulse twittering for a while, but who does it really help? This book will either live up to the hype – in which case the hype was unnecessary -  or it won’t, which will kill the author dead.

Bob le Flambeur, takes a gamble on a debut novel.
It can also put the writer under a lot of pressure that might be hard to live up to – it certainly doesn’t appear to have done Scott Lynch any good, for example. I wonder if this is really a good way to treat authors, and I think Gollancz begins to look like a kind of Svengali, scooping these half-formed creative souls up and then throwing them into a world they aren’t prepared for. I think I wrote here a while ago about the pressure that web-based stuff puts creatives under, and the benefits of working away from your audience and their expectations, and I think there’s clearly something to this. It’s a solitary business being a creator and while a little help is sometimes useful, the breathless anticipation of a zillion eager fans is going to be no help at all (but then, what would I know about that?)

Ultimately, agressive hype and all too obvious market placement get my back up. Yes, I'm a dull beige sort of fellow who likes happening across things by himself. This sort of hype front loads the pleasure of a book. Everything that comes after it will be a disappointment. Eeen if the book is great, the hype will have eaten away half the delight of finding something new and unique and special.

Well, who cares about the hype? The only thing I want to know is, is it any good? Well, you can check out my review to see what I think, but nothihg short of a new testament for the Bible would live up to this kind of thing!

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