Mining the Depths

I'll read almost anything and love what captures my imagination. Best of all is responding to books in the larger cultural sense, loving or loathsome. Literature should have a place in the wider world.

 

And I'm another GoodReads refugee. 

Soulless  - Gail Carriger Soulless is about Alexia the half-Italian spinster and her trials and tribulations as a soulless member of a paranormally-inclined Victorian London. Not that the Victorians aren't known for there attraction to the paranormal in our world, but in this one the vampires and werewolves are real and officially 'out'. It's all marvelously civilized, especially if you use the Victorian's definition of the term. At any rate, our main character Alexia Strangename (I've forgotten her real surname) is, well, soulless (not a spoiler). Being soulless means she is a preternatural, which is the opposite of vampires and werewolves, and also means she has no intuitive fashion-sense, or do creative things. Fortunately, being a preternatural does not inconvenience Alexia in any other way, except to function as the plot. Now, Alexia starts off by killing a new vampire who doesn't know the proper rules and etiquette of Victorian London. If you have read anything, ever set in Victorian London, you know that this is a shocking *bad sign*. However, Alexia bravely fights him off and kills him with a parasol in some fashion I don't remember. But fortunately society does not catch her in such an unladylike pursuit because Lord Maccon or whatshisname covers for her. He's a werewolf, and an Alpha, and in charge of the BUR, which is basically a spy organization officially organized through the government. I think. Anyway, he and Alexia bicker and it's pretty clear he's the Hero to our Heroine. Speaking of which, why, in these sorts of books, is the heroine always quasi-incapacitated for the first kiss? Given the situation in *this* book, it doesn't bother me so much, because it is Victorian-set and it's pretty much up to the man to make the first move. Alexia, after said first kiss though, finally realizes Maccon (or whatshisname) is supposed to be her love interest, and so for the next 100 pages or whatever, they must go through their romantic-comedy hijinks before they can get together for good. Clearly they'll get together. What's a spoiler (sort of) is that Alexia has to participate in the Bitch Dance (or whatsitcalled) because Maccon is an Alpha werewolf - and possibly because he's Scottish, and Alexia is an alpha. But not a werewolf. Also B Plot! Or maybe A plot, they get approximately equal text time. So there are werewolves and vampires, but this is Victorian London, and the Victorians did so love their kinky science. Now science is good, because the English are Enlightened, and also our Heroine is well-educated - possibly because she's Italian, or because she's a spinster, but it might be because they told her she was soulless when she was six. Yeah, her six-year-old self may have seemed to be cool with it, but I have my doubts.Back to the kinky science. Wait not yet! First B plot: besides crazy vampires showing up in fancy balls, so-called 'drones' (wannabe vampires) are going missing. And so are werewolves from the surrounding areas. And the crazy vampires showing up ignorant of society rules and outside control of the vampire hive queens, who don't like these kind of things.Possibly just because they're Victorian, but also because they are immortal and haven't experienced it before. Being immortal is awesome by the way, and Christianity is evil. Because. The vampires and werewolves know they're protocol, so there's absolutely no reason to object. Americans simply don't know any better.Sorry about that. The bashing came out of nowhere and came strong for all of a paragraph, and promptly disappeared for most of the novel. Don't want to get worked up about it, because it's not really relevant, but it was obnoxious. And could have been handled much, much better.Anyway, Alexia and Lord Maccon, when they aren't playing UST games in all kinds of inappropriate areas - are trying to find out why all the crazy vampires aren't following the rules, or where they even come from. The fool moon is coming up, too, which makes it hard for all the werewolves to focus - much like this review (although I don't know when the next full moon is). Maccon relies on his second-in-command Lyall (who has a title I can't remember) to do the hard work, even though he is all kinds of awesome.This was a lot of fun...although given how dark it got in the end, I want to know why it's so horrifying to be just a little bit concerned about all the supernatural creatures living right next door and working with the queen. But any objection is evil (this is where the kinky science comes in).It did take me the first couple chapters to get into this book, because the writing is a little clunky. For the most part Carriger sticks to a distant third person, except when focusing on Alexia who has a quirky, unique voice. That didn't stop the prose from jumping characters though, sometimes for just one paragraph in a scene. This wasn't as disruptive as it could have been, but it was awkwardly handled. Also, especially in the beginning, exposition clunks in the middle of the conversation, which can make the initial topic hard to remember by the time you get back to it. Quite simply, the text feels very raw...not messy, but not particularly polished, either. Final notes: a fun romp. The queen was pretty awesome. What? It may have vampires, but it's still set in Victorian London. Of course the queen shows up. That's practically the point. Did no one watch The Great Mouse Detective? Lastly: was it really necessary to bash every single other female character? Alexia especially shouldn't be quite so contemptuous over the one person who will be her friend, even as she makes fun of her hats that she shouldn't *feel* so strongly about, knowing the rules of fashion or not. Thought there might be a good moment when Maccon thinks for a moment that Alexia got her fire from her mother, but really it's just a mommy dearest moment, to show how truly awful she is. And yet Alexia managed to at least educate herself...her mother could have done a lot more to stop her. Oh wells, she's not really a major character.

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