Review: The Demi-Monde: Winter

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 There’s one character who is so badly written that I honestly believed that she’d been replaced by her double or “Dupe” as they’re called in the book.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.

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Demi-Monde: Winter

  1. Hi Tracy,

    Many thanks for taking the time to read my book and to post a review.

    Now you’ve got me breaking a vow that I’d never respond to reviews but you raise some interesting points which prompted me to write a blog entry about the need for a writer to inculcate trust in his or her resdership. One of the problems I’ve found with being a new writer is that (obviously) I don’t have any track record with readers and that means there’s a lack of trust in my ability. And this is a particular problem when you’re writing a four volume ‘saga’ (horrible word) like The Demi-Monde.

    When a reader trusts a writer they believe that at the end of the story cycle he or she won’t leave them dangling, that the plot holes and inconsistencies they perceive when reading a book are not mistakes, and that everything will be explained or rationalised in later instalments of the story.

    You cite a number of ‘major plot points’ which, you believe, mars Winter. Now what we have here is a breakdown in trust: you don’t have enough confidence in me as a writer to believe that by the time you get to the end of ‘The Demi-Monde: Fall’ I’ll have explained how Norma got into the Demi-Monde; why the US military thinks its neoFights are dying; why ABBA is so persnickety about exactly replicating its Dupes etc. etc.). But believe me, Tracy, all will be made clear … trust me!

    It’s a problem I’m faced before. A reviewer in the UK chastised me for introducing technology to my world of 2018 which will be beyond our current capabilities. Absolutely correct if the Real World of 2018 was OUR world but (as will be explained in later books) it isn’t. You see: he didn’t trust me.

    Unfortunately this trust issue is a problem I think will be exacerbated by ‘The Demi-Monde: Spring’. There are a number of inferences/suggestions/hints strewn in Spring which won’t be resolved until the final book. I thought this was me being tantalising until my American editors (quite rightly) suggested that I become just a tad less oblique. God knows what you’ll make of Spring, Tracy, but it’ll be interesting finding out.

    Once again, many thanks … Best Regards, Rod.

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  2. Hi Rod, and thanks for your comment. Believe me when I tell you you’ve got me for the long haul because whatever weaknesses I found in the narrative were more than made up for by the strength of your storytelling. And yes, there is an element of trust here. I’m probably about midway along the scale with you, reserving judgment, but willing to try the next step.

    The other thing is that most writers write either plot-driven stories or character-driven ones. I’m a character-driven writer, often to the detriment of plot (I’m working on it.) And because your novel is so plot-heavy, it’s not as… how shall I put it? Well, basically I don’t think you and I think alike as writers, so we’d find areas where we simply didn’t “get” what the other person was on about.

    I have to say — and I honestly wish I’d stressed this in the review — that you’ve created a remarkable universe quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’m fascinated to see where it will go.

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