RARA-AVIS: Skin Palace

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 11 Nov 2004

Thanks for all the recommendations on Ross Thomas. CHINAMAN'S CHANCE sounds good.

Just finished Jack O'Connell's SKIN PALACE. It was hard to tell what he intended as serious and what was supposed to be humorous. Maybe for O'Connell the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Noir movies and themes play a big part in the book, and O'Connell's dark metropolis of Quinsigamond is drenched in noir atmosphere and violence. The plot and characters are exaggerated in a style that is referred to nowadays as over-the-top. Two science fiction novels, Gaiman's NEVERWHERE and Mieville's PERDIDO STREET STATION, come to mind.

O'Connell is talented and entertaining and I will definitely read more, but the plot had some loose ends and some pretty big coincidences. What pictures was Hermann looking for? Who guided Sylvia back to the carny booth that Leni was at? Obviously Propp intended Sylvia to get the camera, but what if Sylvia hadn't read the ad for it, or what if she didn't want the camera, or what if she hadn't developed the film, or what if the film wasn't perfectly preserved after sitting in a camera unused for over 20 years? It's a small complaint really. A little suspension of disbelief is a worthwhile trade for a few hours with O'Connell.

A couple other things. First, although the cult-worship of Terrence Propp is ridiculed by Propp, I think O'Connell meant it to carry some weight, to establish a significance to the art of photography, but memories of Willeford's THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY made it hard for me to buy in. Second, I understand the scene with the lost film about THE WIZARD OF OZ, but in the end I think it worked against one of his primary themes.

I'm going to give BRIARPATCH a shot and then finish up Bruen's White trilogy.



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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 11 Nov 2004 EST