Well, this book impressed me. Right near the start I realised the author had good control of pacing and delivery; I liked the voice; I appreciated the writing; I laughed at some of the humour. As a result I had confidence in the author. This was confirmed by the way they didn't give unnecessary detail, only what was needed, so the reader does some of the work. I could then relax and enjoy the tale, which lived up to the writing, to the extent that I looked forward to picking the book up and continuing each night. It was full of unexpected twists and imaginative events, all that I'd want from a book. Big thumbs up.
The version I had contained quite a few typos, I don't know if it was an older edition and they might be fixed now, but they stood out all the more because the rest of the writing was so good. I also noticed the cover for the version I had (from a book bundle I'd bought some time ago) was different to the version currently on sale, and superior to it. I think the current cover (black, with hands holding flowers) really doesn't do the novel justice. It's an entertaining and well-written sci-fi action novel - the black and white cover makes it look like a self-help book. Don't be put off by the cover, the story is cool.
The characters in the story were great fun, especially the protagonist's dual nature (the way the author dealt with his interior discussions were really well done, and often very funny), and the lovably ambiguous ambimorph.
As to plot: many questions were left unanswered, presumably for the sequels (though I still never understood why Godiva had been left alone in a shop). Overall that's fine - there's _just enough_ of a wrap up. Only one plot element didn't work for me - a major character (Agony) only appears towards the end. It turns out one of the long-winded sequences of events was engineered by her "to get your attention", so the protagonist would visit her for a chat - yet she had already met him earlier and had the opportunity to chat with him about whatever she wanted without any convoluted shenanigans. On top of which, she never actually explains what she wanted, due to interruptions and distractions. That leaves the final segment of the book feeling like it was exciting but totally unnecessary - something that could have easily been fixed. If I've misunderstood any of that then the fault's mine - there are a lot of subplots the author needed to loosely tie up in the final section.
Final thoughts: an unexpectedly entertaining book which is well worth a read. Some of the writing is as tight as any piece of noir, the action as exciting as any thriller, and the mysteries as puzzling as any whodunnit.
When required to place this book in a genre Burnett has previously chosen science fiction and urban fantasy. It might also be categorised as supernatural fiction or horror. The opening scenes have an ambience of crime noir and spy thriller. While the book very definitely contains speculative elements, the story takes precedence over the speculation, refusing to be confined by genre.
This novel is the first in the Book of Lost Doors series. The protagonist, James Ozryck, has shared his body with an inhuman consciousness since early childhood; a consciousness he calls Catskinner. Catskinner gives him access to superhuman abilities but also kills without apparent reason or compassion. He finds work as a contract assassin but the murder of his boss reveals Catskinner is not the only unnatural being in the world, and not all of them are as content to merely exist. Before James can build himself a new future he must try to understand his past.
At the core of this novel's strength is the characterisation. As with Byronic heroes such as Milton's Lucifer and Hammett's Sam Spade, James Ozryck is unashamedly not a good man, but from the first page Burnett paints him a character flawed by extreme circumstance and environment; a man worthy of our sympathy. Catskinner is similarly well handled, possessing a distinct intelligible character without sacrificing its otherness. The competing drives of the two main characters blend to produce a dynamic balance between ensuring survival and having a reason to survive.
The complexity of motivation in James/Catskinner continues into the other characters. While characters might be of a particular gender or sexuality they act like individuals and not stereotypes, each displaying personal goals that temporarily coincide or conflict with others. However Burnett does not fall into the trap of making characters defy stereotypes for the sake of it; beyond the nuanced interaction of the key characters are many background interactions which realistically portray the hollow biases that power our stereotypes.
A similar depth is evident in the cosmology. The reader is slowly exposed to more of the magic concealed within every day society, each piece building on others and providing new possibilities for previous events until the disparate pieces fit together to not only show they are all aspects of one whole but also ignite speculation about how it might explain anomalies in the real world.
The book is written entirely from the perspective of James, which portrays very well his search for answers and frustration when he does not find them; however this identification with James can instil the same drive and the same frustration in the reader. As the book is well paced, and Burnett does not withhold information merely to extend the story, this frustration is quickly eased, but this is not a book for readers who do not enjoy the satisfaction of a hard-won explanation.
This is one of the best books I have read this year. The fusion of an engaging plot with a complex world make it enjoyable both as a thrilling adventure and a metaphysical exploration. I recommend it to anyone who does not limit themselves to strict realism.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review
After reading the author's blog for some time now I became curious about his books that he occasionally mentioned. I'm not usually a huge sci-if lover but something about Catskinner's Book drew me in right from the first page. The normality of the opening scene followed by stranger happenings had me unusually hooked. I thought that at first I would probably not enjoy the book as the opening scene seemed so mundane and didn't appear to have a hook, but the style of writing and thought processing of James, the protagonist persuaded me to carry on reading and after the first few pages I found I just had to keep on reading. The character, Catskinner was fresh and something different and I was surprised with how well Burnett makes the reader engage with something so inhuman in mindset.The pace of the book didn't seem to slow down but I found I didn't mind too much as Burnett kept with the pace he had set and didn't falter with his writing quality. Near the end I admit I did want to throw my kindle out of the window at the turn of events in the plot as I had come to love the characters but the ending rewarded me as I manged to refrain from doing so. I'm thoroughly looking forward to reading the second installment (and the third when published) in the series. Well written Mr Burnett!
I loved this book. The character of Cat Skinner himself was fantastic. Overall the pace was brilliant, plenty of action with well thought-out characters. The plot was great but that ending! I'd love to read more from these characters and the world they're in. If you like properly done urban fantasies with believable characters, you'll love this. Just be prepared for the ending.