Friday, December 09, 2005

Vampire Hunter D: volume 1 - Hideyuki Kikuchi, translated by
kevin Leahy

After ploughing through Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrell the only thing I wanted my next book to be was small. Light. Not a physical strain to read. This was the smallest thing I had in reach. It isn't the most noble reason to choose a book, although it is quite nice to hold. It's a good shape, with nice heft, and flexible paper. I'm fond of the cover as well.

The first sentence made me cringe. 'stained', not 'was staining'! Blood and vermillion, you mean red? Long grass high enough to hide all to a man's ankles? That's not very high.

Quash the inner editor.

This isn't partictularly well written, however I'm not sure how much blame lies with the writer, and with the translator. I have no idea how much artist license a translator is allowed to exercise over a work, although it seems to me to be something that is entirely subjective and depends on writer and translator.

On a sentence level, I know the translator is responsible, and likes to show off what fancy words are in his vocabularly. He's particularly fond of 'vacillate', and uses it at every opportunity. No one in this book hesitates, deliberates, doubts, consideres, wavers, etc, they all vacillate. There are cliches everywhere, EVERYWHERE. But perhaps he was doing a very literal transaltion. I'll never know.

But, the writer is very, very guilty of all sorts of 'orrible things. Telling, for starters. Quite literally in most cases. He has a habit, in his fight scenes, of flashing through what happened, and then going back, and saying 'shall I tell you what happened?' (yes, that's in the book), and narrating, blow by blow, exactly how super fast and incredible and wow the fight was, and how brilliant and ingenious D was for defeating this enemy faster than the eye. This shat me more than anything else in the book, as all the thrill is stolen from any action sequence if you already know how it ends. (Sports playbacks have never interested me either.) It felt condescending. I was being told how I should react to these amazing astonishing feats, instead of actually being amazed and astonished.

Characterisation is poor. They're all cliches, and I'm pretty sure that D is a Mary Sue. I mean, everyone comments on how wonderfully beautifully gorgeous he is, everyone wants in his pants, he can't actually do anything wrong himself...(and he has no personality. He's too cool to have personality.)

The story itself was so-so.

And despite all this, I devoured it all, and I'll probably go and buy the second book soon. It's immature writing, it has so much potential that it squanders on cliches, yet that potential is still there. There are moments of raw wonder that I adored. The world he's imagined, a mix of gothic and cyberpunk, is so fresh and wide, I can forgive these things to take a stroll in it.

Sometimes, I think I forgive books such as these because I'm afraid that they're me. That I'm all imagination and no talent as well.

Verdict: It's a bit like popcorn. You won't be able to stop eating it, but you're not exactly drawing anything nutritional out of it either.

1 comment:

  1. A friend in NYC once showed me the movie of this. It too seemed to be a little strange (or maybe it's just old) but once I got into the plot it was a rewarding view. Helsing is similar, in a way, although set in a modern world.