Around page 100 of “The Demi-Monde: Winter,” one of the characters thinks: “One more acronym and murder will be done,” I know just how she felt. This novel can be maddening, riddled as it is with terms like “Suffer-O-Gettes” and “LessBiens,” “ForthRight” and “UnFunDaMentalism” as well as the aforementioned acronyms. Wordplay can be fun if it’s done deftly, and some of what Rees gives us here is clever. “ForthRight,” for example is a brilliant bit of wordplay, but “Suffer-O-Gettes” and particularly “UnFunDaMentalism” are labored and more likely to throw a reader out of the story than enhance his or her experience. Rees also has no ear for writing accents. Early on, we meet an Italian whose speech is rendered thus: “Itta gettin’ much awful late… Message from your father wassa that you should be home by the soonest time…” And even when he does seem to have a feel for an accent, he overdoes it, so that the reader spends a lot of time slowing down and working out what the characters are trying to say.
However, if you do manage to get past Rees’ shortcomings you will probably find yourself hooked on the story. Because whatever Rees’ faults as a writer are he can tell a rattling good adventure yarn. His pacing is very good, and his prose is tight. In fact it might be too tight; while “The Demi-Monde: Winter” is an engaging story, it does fail to pull the reader wholly into the story. And I think a major part of the problem is in the fact that Rees is weak on characterization. Most of the characters are flattish with a few interesting quirks, and one or two are so inconsistent as to make you wonder if you haven’t stumbled into an entirely different novel. There’s one character who is so badly written that I honestly believed that she’d been replaced by her double or “Dupe” as they’re called in the book. She goes from likable to unlikable to cardboard, and while I say kudos to a writer willing to let a character with whom we should sympathize be unsympathetic, I tend to prefer that characterization to be consistent.
I know I sound as if I disliked this book, but the fact is, as irritated as I often was, and as shortchanged as I sometimes felt, I still enjoyed the heck out of it. Don’t look for great literature here, just an interesting take on an alternate universe.
- Waiting on Wednesday: The Demi-Monde: Spring by Rod Rees (bookmonkeyscribbles.wordpress.com)