Tag Archives: Tim Lebbon

Book Review: A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon

A Whisper of Southern Lights is the second novella I’ve read by Tim Lebbon, and it’s probably the last. I didn’t care much for Pieces of Hate a couple of months ago, or that book’s bonus novelette “Deadman’s Hand,” but I thought I would check this one out nonetheless. Generally Tor.com’s novellas are of good quality, and I thought that perhaps I just needed to give Lebbon’s Assassin Series a second try. Unfortunately, I liked this entry of the series even less than the previous installment.

The basic plot of this series is that this guy, Gabriel, is an ordinary man whose wife and children were murdered by a demon, Temple, after which Gabriel is made immortal and set to hunt Temple across time and continents. Over hundreds of years, the two immortal enemies meet and fight several times, but neither comes out ahead, and there doesn’t seem to be any actual purpose to their struggle. Indeed, when Gabriel and Temple do brush up against regular mortals, it tends to be fatal one way or another.

In A Whisper of Southern Lights, Gabriel is hunting for Temple in the chaos of the Second World War. He finds him in Singapore, where both of them are working to discover some knowledge possessed by a soldier who is being kept by the Japanese as a prisoner of war. However, for all that this sounds as if there would be some specificity to the tale, everything about this book is vague and generic. Even the racial slurs and the venom with which the soldier character thinks about the Japanese are entirely boring because it’s so obviously exactly the sort of thing I feel ought to be expected from this series as it moves into this setting. Gabriel continues to be a completely non-descript character, and Temple is still a caricature of evil. The man with the snake in his eye is as mysterious as ever, and the mythology of Gabriel, Temple, and their eternal struggle is still murky and ill-defined.

Worst of all, though, is that there’s very little reason to care about any of the characters at all. Even the soldier who is a temporary point of view character isn’t very likeable. He’s a random sort of fellow, not highly educated or a deep thinker, and without any particular virtue to make us root for his continued survival except that he is human, while Temple is not and even Gabriel is something else by now. It does seem unfair that some random guy would get caught up in their conflict, but with no real sense of what the conflict is even about and little enough to like about any of the characters, it’s hard to get invested in the events of the novella.

It seems as the Tim Lebbon wants to convey something deep and profound about the nature of war or of good and evil or humanity or something, but it’s hard to convey much of anything if you can’t string together a coherent story and make readers care about it. Your mileage may vary, but I’m getting off this ride before I waste any more of my time on waiting for it to come to some kind of point.

This review is based upon a copy received from the publisher through NetGalley.

A Whisper of Southern Lights will be released on May 10, 2016. 

Book Review: Pieces of Hate by Tim Lebbon

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.