This is what I get for putting off posting for so long -- a lot of new books, including a couple I'm skipping.
These are three pretty disparate books, and I think they show disparate approaches to style. Jim Butcher's Death Masks is almost anti-style -- the author will happily butcher the language (pun intended) as he tries to get his story across. The characters are all smart-alecky, he re-uses phrases (like the incessant "Hell's bells"), and, in short, can really grate on the ear. But, for all that, I enjoyed the book -- I can give Butcher a pass on the style, because the story's so entertaining, and he's playing with some clever ideas. It also helps that the novel is pretty short, because if a book like this starts to drag, you end up thinking about the writing instead of the plot, and that's the kiss of death in such a plot-driven book.
Adrian McKinty's Dead I Well May Be takes pretty much the opposite approach. It's a pretty standard revenge story about a man set up for a crime who escapes to seek revenge on the people who set him up. McKinty's style, though, rescues this book. Michael, the protagonist, has a beautifully expressive way of telling a story, and is very funny to boot. He complains that when he's fleeing the police (in handcuffs), nobody tries to stop him -- "have they no social responsibility?" I think he's also a great incarnation of a character who's very clever, but is ultimately feckless because he just can't get motivated. In the end, I was a bit sorry that the plot-line was so weak, but I certainly want to read more about Michael, so I'll tune in for the next installment and hope that McKinty brings his talents to bear on a worthier plot.
Jeff Vandermeer's Shriek:An Afterword is a perfect marriage of plot and style. The set-up at first seems rather precious: Janice Shriek, sister of Duncan Shriek, is writing an afterword to her brother's brief history of Ambergris. She thinks he is dead, and so her afterword turns into a memoir of her interactions with him. He, however, is not dead, and has scribbled his emendations into her text (though he is also an unreliable narrator). On top of all that, Janice is in a disturbed frame of mind, and she keeps backtracking on her story, even starting over a couple of times.
In practice, though, the artificiality of the device fades as we become wrapped up in the story. This is a story about an enigma -- what are the Gray Caps, and what do they want? At least so far, they're ultimately unknowable, and so this fractured view is the only way to tell this story. In a more straight-forward attempt to tell the story, we'd lose much of the mystery -- what did Duncan find underground? Is a sea-change actually happening in Ambergris, or is it just Janice's imagination?