The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm going to be tough on aspects of this book, but before I do, I just have to state this upfront as the most important point: this book made me gleeful.
The Palace Job is best described as a high fantasy novel crossed with a heist movie, with loving emulation of the latter in the characters, the patter, the elaborate scheme, the hidden agendas, and the magitech that stands in credibly for laser grids and state-of-the-art security systmes. The latter aspect is done particularly well: it's evocative enough to be loving homage, well-described enough that the reader can follow along, yet seamless and logical when considered in context of the fantasy setting. The team that Loch assembles is a motley crew with several briefly outlined but still satisfying personal side-stories ... but I think I would have preferred a little bit more focus on them, especially the romantic subplots. For instance, one of the characters is betrayed, and I would have loved to see his emotional response.
The humor in this book is wonderful and largely timeless - it relies on running gags, character quirks and interplay, and the occasional pun ... rarely supplemented by parallels to our modern world. The pace snaps right along ... until the actual raid, when I felt it got bogged down in too many people trying to accomplish too much, which inevitably takes too many pages. Here's where the attempt to translate a heist movie to a written medium falls down a bit: what could be handled in 5-10 minute montage ends up taking 30-40 pages. It takes longer to read, absorb and keep track of those pages than it does to do the same with the visual montage. This is a tough problem, and I can't really hold it against Weekes that it wasn't perfectly handled.
Another part of the heist movie trope that I thought suffered in translation was the trick / trap that the characters have planned, but the reader / viewer doesn't know about until afterwards. There's a lot of "all will be become clear" in a movie that I feel just doesn't work in a book. Personally, I couldn't suspend my confusion for long enough - I found myself going back to ensure I hadn't missed something. I don't think the book would have been ruined by giving us a few more internal clues as to what lay ahead.
Yes, I'm critical of this book ... but I would definitely recommend it, because ultimately, I loved it. It has the perfect blend of the familiar and the surprising, both a touching tribute to the heist story and its own, unique tale. It even made me tear up once. Check this one out.
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