Sunday, February 17, 2008

50 Book Challenge #10: Caracole

A new blogfriend recommended Caracole, a fantasy novel without dragons, quests, magic, or bad writing. That's something I can get behind. Since they're probably going to burn The Original of Laura, this may be the best you can hope for if you're in search of Nabokovian prose. It starts off with the appearance of being a conventional narrative but eventually lapses into a series of character studies--not that this is a problem. The book has a strong erotic current, but in the final analysis is more about atmospherics and psychology than sex.

The only issues I had with the book were that Gabriel, the teenage boy who is rescued from a backwater upbringing and spirited away to the sophisticated and decadent capital of his conquered nation, is fundamentally stupid and uninteresting. Part of this is a lack of education, but by nature or nurture, Gabriel has been flattened, and he is only useful as a device to introduce us to the more multifaceted populace of the capital. There's also some exoticizing of the dark-skinned characters; I couldn't decide if it was over-the-top and discomfiting because it was parodic, or if it was merely an embrace of the tropes prevalent in fiction of the period in which the story is set (which is emphatically not today, although it does come off as a fantastic turn on alternate history in some ways). Recommended.
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