Pieces of Hate is, technically, an okay book. However, it’s exactly the sort of thing that I normally try to avoid like the plague because I kind of hate it. It’s one of the better examples of its kind of story, but it’s still not my cup of tea. There’s very little that I find more boring than a fridged wife—nameless, even, to add insult to injury—and a manly revenge quest in which the only other women encountered are prostitutes who are (of course) repulsive to the protagonist. It’s a level of casual misogyny (either the author’s or the characters’—it doesn’t matter) that I found alienating from page one.
The mythology of surrounding the characters of Gabriel and Temple is moderately interesting, but nothing particularly special. The introductory novelette, “Dead Man’s Hand” didn’t help much in this regard, either. If anything, it was especially dull, being told from the point of view of a minor character who doesn’t actually know or understand the events happening around him. It’s also a pretty terrible introduction to Gabriel as a character. Without any of the insight into Gabriel’s inner thoughts like we get in Pieces of Hate, the Gabriel of “Dead Man’s Hand” isn’t at all likeable or sympathetic.
While I like the flexibility the premise of the two warriors, locked in an ongoing battle or hunt across time and space, offers, the downside of it here is that the two stories in this volume are so different that they are very disconnected. It lets Lebbon experiment with different genres, which could be potentially very interesting, but the juxtaposition here of the western with a sort of pirate story just doesn’t work. Partly this is because it’s cliché, but the disconnectedness of the narratives is exacerbated by the abovementioned change in point of view between the two parts of the book.
The biggest issue I had with Pieces of Hate, however, is just that it’s not my kind of story. While I enjoy reading outside my usual genre comfort zones from time to time, it’s very difficult for me to get into any of these sort of testosterone-fueled revenge narratives unless there is something really special or unique about them. Unfortunately, Pieces of Hate isn’t anything I haven’t read many times before, and Tim Lebbon fails to bring anything fresh or compelling to a set of very old tropes.
This review is based upon a copy of the book received from the publisher through NetGalley.