Gentlemen Bastards readalong – Red Seas Under Red Skies – Chapters 1-4

So after finishing up with The Lies of Locke Lamora, it’s now time to launch into the second book of the Gentlemen Bastards series with Red Seas Under Red Skies. Questions and readalong organzation is all done through Gollancz and Fantasy Faction, so if you want to join in, hop over to one of those blogs for additional details.

And now, on with the questions!

Question: So, what are your initial impressions of the opening quarter of the book? A lot has changed… what do you like and what do you dislike?

It was weird to see Locke so despondant, for one thing. In the last book, he was full of life, either living it up as a kmaster thief or burning with righteous rage. So seeing him like that was strange.

I also found myself somewhat mistaken about the issue of the Bondsmage. Sort of. In the last batch of questions, it was asked if I thought we’d seen the last of the Falconer. And we have, so far. Sort of. We haven’t seen the last of people out for revenge on his behalf, however, and that’s a little different. So I guess I stand semi-corrected.

But overall, my impressions so far are of a strong continuation of a strong previous novel, and it makes me very happy to be able to read it!

redseasunderredskiesQuestion: How did you find Locke’s depression? Was it out of character for him? Was Jean’s frustration at Locke out of character for him too?

It was very much in character. Hard to deal with, because it presented a very different person than I was used to seeing. He had just lost 3 of his friends and companions, and that’s not counting Nazca, and life as he knew it was pretty much over. I can’t say I blame him for retreating into himself and letting despair overtake him.

That being said, I also completely understand Jean’s reaction. Locke wasn’t making things easy for him, and Jean had lost just as much, and doing his best to not only pull through for himself, but force Locke to stand on his own two feet, which Locke was refusing to do. It was a lousy situation for them both, and I think both of their actions were completely understandable.

Question: Why do you think Locke and Jean ignore the Bondsmagi? Are they scared of them or is it more a feeling of helplessness that they can’t stand to face?

I don’t think they ignore them so much as put up a tough face, trying to turn their back on them out of bravado, because they know that neither of them are in a position to face one Bondmage, let alone multiple.  But as to whether they feel scared or helpless? Why not Zoidberg both?

Question: What do you think about the new setting of Tal Verrar compared to Camorr?

It’s an interesting change of setting. In some ways, it’s familiar, because you’ve got a society that’s built atop corruption while maintaining an image of respectability. But there are enough differences to make it feel like a whole new place, and from the general feel of the novel, a whole new adventure.

But in a lot of ways, it’s like Camorr 2.0. I’m starting to wonder if there’s any place in this world that doesn’t glorify screwing people over. Perhaps that’s a narrow view, because we’re mostly seeing what Locke and Jean are going through, and they’re naturally going to be part of the underworld, the duplicitous and sneaky and opportunistic.

Question: Who do you think is the lesser of two evils? Requin or Stagos? Which one should Locke avoid upsetting at the end of the con or do you think it is inevitable Locke will have them both after his blood?

I think Locke’s going to have both of them after him, while having to dodge the Bondsmagi at the same time. Because that’s just how things seemed to roll in the last book, and I can see the very same thing happening here. I can’t see either Requin or Stagos as unlikely llies to Locke and Jean, and while I can completely see Locke trying to play one against the other, I can’t see him relying on either of them for help when push comes to shove.

But on the whole, I think that Requin, weirdly, is the lesser of two evils. His interests are smaller-scale, and mostly out in the open, where Stagos is another one of those people who has his fingers in everyone’s pies and then smiles innocently while the world goes to hell around him. I’ve never trusted characters like that; Requin, at least, doesn’t pretend to be anything but the hard-hearted and ruthless business man that he is.

Or so it seems, anyway. From my experience with the last book, I completely expect my expectations to be turned on their heads by the end!

Question: I found it interesting that Locke was talking about retirement or at very least changing how he works. We also see Locke finding it difficult to watch younger people die. Do you think the two are connected? Do you think Locke is losing his nerve as he gets older?

I think Locke has had a real taste of mortality, and he didn’t like it. Seeing others like him die, he becomes all too aware of the fact that every action, every scheme could lead to his own downfall, and in that, it’s not out of character to see him talk about settling down and retiring. it’s sad, but not unexpected. It reminded me of a quote from Mercedes Lackey’s Take a Thief: “There are old thieves, and there are bold thieves, but there are no old bold thieves.”

That being said, I can’t picture him actually settling down. Sure, he may buy himself a title, buy a house, live like a respectable well-off citizen of wherever he ends up, but really, can you honestly picture him not getting itching fingers or coming across an awesome scam that he can run? He just won’t rely on it, he won’t do it so much, and it’ll be more of a game for him than a way of life. I can see him cheating his way into every coin that touches his hand, but it won’t be his profession anymore, if that makes sense.

6 comments on “Gentlemen Bastards readalong – Red Seas Under Red Skies – Chapters 1-4

  1. First off, Jean eating pears >.> *bursts into giggles*

    I also had a hard time with Locke’s depression, but I felt that it made him so much more real. Too often we are presented with the tough hero who pushes through everything bad that happens, even though I doubt most people could actually do that. I felt for him since I was sad about everyone dying too and he expressed those emotions for me.

    • Yes, Jean eating the pears made me grin! I love the banter between those two; it’s like they have an unending supply of wit!

      That sort of behaviour is hard to witness in anyone, let alone someone who used to be so full of life. I’ve struggled through depression multiple times in the past, and while it wasn’t the kind of hole-your-self-up-because-you’ve-lost-everything depression that Locke experienced, I could relate more than a little. That kind of stuff hits right to the heart.

  2. Locke became much more human to me in this book (well, so far anyway, I’m just over halfway through now), and I like him even better for it. Not that I didn’t like him before, but you get a much better sense of Locke the man in this book, as opposed to Locke the garrista conman. So far I have no idea why so many people say this book is not as good as the first, I’m enjoying it immensely.

    • Most of what I heard was that this book was even better than the first! And so far it’s holding up to be at least as good, so I’m quite happy with it. I wonder if some of the people who say it isn’t as good are struggling to get over the memory of the introduction; nothing ever quite compares to the first book of a series, no matter how good the rest of them are.

      • Maybe, though I can’t remember that I’ve ever felt like that. Usually the climax of a series, the payoff, is what excites me the most, not the introductory part. But yeah, so far I won’t say that this is better than the first, but it’s by no means worse.

  3. Pingback: September in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

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