Monday, June 22, 2009

Dear Charlie:

Okee doke. I don't usually review books like I do movies -- there are simply too many I'd like to say stuff about, but most of them would be Stephen King's work and such reviews would quickly become tiresome for anyone but me -- but after plowing through three books (each of which was at least 600 pages) in three days, I think I might owe Brent Weeks something of a comment, at the least.

If you haven't read The Night Angel Trilogy, I beg you to read no further. I'm seriously. I'm gonna spoiler the hell out of it, and if you haven't read it, the entire house of cards built therein will fall flat on its ace-high ass.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!

I'm seriously.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

Dude, not kidding.

ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE LOOKING FOR NO SPOILERS!!

Don't read any further. Seriously.

...

Still reading? Your funeral.

I have a thing for assassins. Or maybe I should say that I used to have a thing for assassins...until I met a wetboy.

No, that doesn't mean something dirty.

An assassin has targets. A wetboy has deaders. The difference? You can miss a target. A deader is just dead, from the moment the wetboy takes the contract.

Enter Durzo Blint. The best wetboy who has ever lived.

While all the characters in this trilogy are fascinating with histories and motivations more than some authors give even their main characters -- and oh, these characters should collectively be called Legion, for their personal demons are many -- I think Blint may well be my favorite character of all time.

Keep in mind that this could be because I've just spent most of the last three days with him, even though he's not the "main" character of the trilogy.

Don't get me wrong; Kylar Stern is the main character, and he is both awesome and awe-inspiring. But Durzo Blint....

At first glance, he's a badass. Upon further acquaintance, he's the deadliest badass of them all, cocky to the point of insufferable arrogance (though that's tempered into fabulousness by his wit and blistering sense of humor), and unbreakably staunch in his routines.

A little probing reveals the funnest truth of them all, which doesn't exactly make sense at first: Durzo Blint is not just a wetboy. He's not even just the best wetboy the world of Midcyru has ever known.

Durzo Blint is an obsessive-compulsive wetboy.

How hilarious is that?

But seriously, all his mannerisms are those repetitions that OCD sufferers use to defray their anxiety. Turning the lock three times. Popping garlic cloves -- not because he likes them, but because the aromatic bite soothes him and because the gesture of reaching into the little bag, tossing one in, and chewing it down is such an ingrained habit. The checking and rechecking of all the traps on his safe houses.

Total OCD.

But the more you think about it, the more you read about him and realize how long and tortured an existence he's had and how dedicated he is to his path, the more that OCD becomes less like a quirky character trait and more like a necessity for his own mental survival.

If you're reading this, you'd damn well better have already read the book, so you know that he's 700 years old and that every time he's "died" and come back, someone has died in his place. There's no way to cheat death, even with Brent-Weeks-immortality. It's the oldest rule in the universe (even the fantasy one): when someone dies, a life is owed, whether it's yours or not.

If you'd lived long enough to understand that ratio and realize that the life taken when yours returned was someone you loved...you'd start to be a little more careful. If every mistake you made -- every fatal one, and in a wetboy's line of work, even the smallest mistake can be fatal -- cost you your best friend or your wife or one of your children, you'd do everything you could to not make a mistake.

Like checking your lock three times. Or rechecking all the traps you'd just set around your safe house.

And you'd do whatever brought you comfort, even if it's just chawing on garlic cloves until the taste becomes relief and the gestures become a soothing ritual.

Of all the characters in Brent Weeks' world, Durzo Blint is hands-down my favorite. I can't think, right off-hand, of a literary character I've enjoyed more or that brought me so much fascination. But again, that could be because I've spent the better part of the last 72 hours blasting through about 2,000 pages.

Little tired.

But still capable of relatively rational thought. Any writer's goal -- hell, that's too weak a word. Any writers reason for writing is to create characters whose personalities walk right off the page. Whose failures feel like the reader's own and whose victories lift the reader's heart. Who isn't necessarily perfect, but is as close to living as you can get without the Power of Creation.

And part of writing a successful character in that vein is giving them traits that effect their Journeys, reflect their pasts, and both sully and aid their plots. Like an obsessive-compulsive wetboy.

Think about it: those little mental tics that were developed in their own way to keep his loved ones safe are just as harmful to him as they are a boon. Admittedly, Blint has enough strength of will to not have to lock, unlock, and relock his door...but it makes him feel better to do it. Safer.

Put that in a crisis situation and see what happens. Or, worse yet, put that in a betrayal situation. You know, one of those few times where he's allowed himself to trust someone with that part of his personality and watch when they sell that secret to someone who can use it against him.

It's a mentally-bouying strength, but it's also a devastating weakness. Or could be.

Which leads me to the other reason Durzo Blint is at the forefront of my list of favorite-characters-I-can-think-of-right-now.

He's done everything he can to never love anyone.

Notice that I didn't say he succeeded. Heh. But it's a trait I admire because of my own opinions of the usual selfishness and greed of love. Long story, and I won't go into it now.

At any rate, here again, his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. He protects himself (and, thus, those who he might come to care for and possibly lose in future) by refusing to get close to anyone, by keeping himself solitary and safely alone. It makes him stronger and better at his craft than anyone else ever could be.

But because he eventually succeeds too well and cuts off not only love but hope, the very source of his power eschews him for another. His ka'kari leaves him for Kylar. Blint's very reason for (continued) existence abandons him because of his detachment toward the rest of the world.

Masterful.

Now, my beloved sister didn't particularly like the last book of the trilogy, and I've yet to talk to her about why (just finished the books, darn it! cut me some slack!). At the moment, I'm both still too stuck in the story to really tell how I feel about it as a whole and too infatuated with the fascinating mysteries that still remain about the incredible Durzo Blint to really attack the ending and discover for myself what turned her off of it. Pesh loves the whole thing through and through, so it may well just be a difference of opinion.

To be honest, I was too busy putting together all the pieces of this particular jigsaw puzzle of a plot to get distracted by certain elements -- okay, so I've never been a romantic and the love aspects are darn near lost on me, other than how they are manipulated into how the plot unfolds. Those things, I'll think about during the week.

Right now, I feel like a schizophrenic staring at the magnificent paranoia board I've created in a vast, abandoned warehouse. Various colors of yarn are stretched in a thousand different ways, tacked to this fact on this wall and that hint on that wall and twisted around that line of influence from the ceiling and bent out of true by that tangle of converging knots of intrigue bundled in the corner. I feel like I'm standing in the midst of a completed masterpiece where I don't think I've dropped any of the threads and where everything seems to be connected correctly and I can see everything I should have received from the information provided.

...

And it's still not enough. Heh. Yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment.

See, part of the attraction for these books (for me, anyway) is that they made me feel smart. Part of the reason I wanted to bull right through them is because every time I read far enough to find that a deduction I'd made from this seemingly-offhand comment was correct or combined that bit of exposition properly with that hint of history or even just correctly guessed what a "fantasy" word meant by syntax, by context, and by guaging one part of the word's meaning from another one that's already been "translated"...well, I just wanted to keep all that fresh in my head. To keep that gigantic paranoia board going without losing any strings.

To keep feeling smart. To keep feeling like I was cracking the code. To keep guessing right not because certain plot twists were obvious but because I love worrying over those seemingly innocent puzzle pieces thrown out until they start to fit together.

As best I can tell at going-on-one-in-the-morning after this much information download, the story itself is fascinating, well-told, and intricately woven. There's a little too much "love will save the world!" gushiness for my taste in some parts, but that's tempered with the bloodshed and sacrifice required throughout (something I actually thought Sis would appreciate).

In short -- I know; too late -- I like it.

And I can't believe I read the Whole Thing.

And I have to go to bed now because it's entirely too close to the time I have to get up and go to work tomorrow, and that sucks donkey balls. Big, hairy ones.

G'night, all, and I may mull this over more when I've had time to percolate on it and talk to both Sis and Pesh on their various points of view. I just kinda wanted to get my unfettered thoughts out before I went there. Fresh from the firing line, so to speak.

...

And Durzo Blint rules. Ha!

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