Thursday, November 06, 2014

Reading matters

Dangerous games (Rossetti & MacLane, #1)Dangerous games by Jérôme Dumont
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I watched as my first reading session was bringing me to about 33%, thinking that there might be an 'act one' curtain, with a major plot spin. But no... and so I allowed myself to be pulled along very pleasurably to the 45% point. The storytelling is fast-paced, deft and for me entirely plausible, the protagonists Rossetti and MacLane believable and sympathique.

When I powered down my Kindle I gave some thought to the very central role played in the narrative by computer gaming. I reflected on the fact that a long time ago I decided that immersive gaming was something I could live without!

Admittedly back in the very late seventies I was briefly addicted to 'Donkey Kong', played on a stand-alone console swallowing franc coins and positioned next to the toilets Chez Castel, the legendary club in Rue Princesse in Paris. When the internet arrived I was briefly seduced by 'Prince of Persia', although the primitive graphics quickly left me unimpressed. At the turn of the century my young daughter and I found 'Shufflepuck' (still in black-and-white) great fun.

Some years later I decided that even the earliest iteration of 'SimCity' could be dangerously addictive. My decision was that my life should not have time for serious gaming. Not that I failed to stay informed as MMORPG became an increasingly familiar acronym. About ten years ago I found 'Second Life' of great interest and indeed it inspired my to imagine an upside-down virtual world, 'VitaVersa', for my novel "Sex & Drugs & Profiteroles".

All of this I mention as I struggle to understand why I have no problem with the long swathes of text the writer devotes to detailed insider description of the global software business, to ‘killer apps’ (I don’t even own a smartphone!) and to the perils concerning panoptic cyber-security.

A second reading session sufficed to finish the book. It became obvious that the author was not constrained by a ‘three act’ dramaturgy but had rather structured the telling of his tale like a lawyer’s plaidoyer, leading smoothly to a conclusion with the guilty… and indeed the innocent… clearly identified. (I mention the ‘innocent’… it was agreeable that Dumont confidently postponed a consummation of the Rossetti and MacLane romantic relationship for a sequel.)

The pace picked up well as soon as the MacGuffin… the contents of the ‘cigar box’… was identified. Then the various forms of villainy were fully revealed and the plotting subsequently well calibrated. My only reservation was that while secondary characters like Martinez and Angel were well fleshed out and engaging, the creep who was Amanda’s husband Frank came across as rather one-dimensional. I’m glad he will not be around in future. It was sometimes amusing to read about the menace of digital data mining… in the knowledge that for both Amazon and Goodreads we are as good as transparent, if not quite naked!

It seems that if I wish to read the further titles in Jérôme Dumont's series I shall have to buy the French original ebooks. I’ll be happy to do so, given that while reading the English edition I was always aware that it was a translation… not a bad translation, but one not lacking in occasional jarring word choices and with an inconsistent ‘voice’.

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