Sunday, August 24, 2008

'the gameplayers of zan'

It took about 400 pages, but I finally am hooked on "The Gameplayers of Zan."

This is the second of M.C. Foster's books about the ler, the artificially evolved new humans of "Warriors of the New Dawn." I've been reading it a book club I've started among friends, and it has been nothing but awful. There is some interesting world-building behind this book, but the author's attempts at building at atmosphere of suspense and mystery fall woefully short.

If you have never heard of the ler, they are a new race of humans created by attempts to push human evolution artificially. The new humans have two thumbs and one finger on each hand, and supposedly are faster, deadlier and more intelligent than traditional humans.

The book is supposed to be something of suspense. Regular humans are suspicious of the ler, and the suspicion centers around zan, a game that supposedly is a big deal in ler society. Except we're never given the impression that is. The book instead follows an investiation by one ler into the death of another, and it's a tedious investigation that involves a lot of walking, discussion and a number of flashbacks that say nothing.

Foster needed to work on his pacing (and his dialogue) a bit more. Only two -- two! -- scenes piqued my interest for the entire first 400 hundred pages, and they weren't enough on their own to keep me going. I would have quit if it hadn't been for the book club and sheer stubborness.

I'm on Page 406 right now; the human agencies have just figured out what the game is about, and they are about to take action to take over the ler reservation. It's a lousy place to stop, but it's 1:12 a.m., and I need to.

I haven't read prose this turgid since I was a newspaper editor. The book finally has my interest now that the nature of the game has been revealed, but it comes far too late in the book to justify the commitment. I will never read the other ler books.

Copyright © 2008 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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