Monday, March 13, 2006

FITZPATRICK'S WAR - by THeodore Judson


For those of you who possess the stamina, courage, will and fortitude to actually read and finish my book postings, you already know what this post will say. A good amount of brain frothing on my part, which will make up for the lack of coherance. You'll nod your head, and say, "Ah yes, Sir Tessa like that book so much she had its babies," and go about your business.

Coherance factor lowered by four morning shifts in a row. And a towel on my head. I just can't think with a towel on my head.

This book is an historical analysis of the memoirs of Sir Robert Mayfair Bruce, who lived through one of the bloodiest wars of history, which despite being victorian/colonial in mindset and steam-powered, is some centuries in the future.

It has footnotes. Therefore, it must rock the kazbar.

The footnotes play an important role in the story, as instead of being an interesting aside about the history of the world, they provide an excellent juxtaposition of Sir Robert's personal experiences and views, and that of what History Says Is True. As the memoir is first person from Robert's point of view, we cannot help but emphathise with him, and the myriad of predicaments he faces, which in turn gives the reader a strong bias. We're on his side already, which always makes it just a bit harder to admit any flaw or mistake in a protagonist. Fortunately, the historian doing the analysis sits side by side with us, and with his useful little footnotes (it is most certainly a he, as such an exercise is well beyond the capability of a mere woman) points out exactly where Robert is wrong, is lying, and is downright blasphemous and heretic and should have been impaled for even thinking such a thing.

As much as Mr Footnote was downright annoying in his inability to entertain a 'what if', he nevertheless provides a very good insight to the workings of society; regimented, conservative, narrow, rigid, and bigotted to the point of hilarity.

(It was in Mr Footnote's introduction to the piece that I realised where I'd gone wrong with a short story of mine, which also endeavoured to swim around in a colonising mindset, and all the discrimination that comes with it. When dealing with characters that are racist, religionist, sexist, and everything-that-isn't-them-ist, the trick is to hold no punches. Don't be afraid of offending the reader - go all the way, and make that mindset, in all its seriousness and well meaning ignorance, a total joke. It makes fun of itself without even trying. Not that I'm quite game to try such a thing yet. Possibly why I enjoy stories styled as such; the absurdity of it all is so ridiculous it makes me giggle.)

(I'm pretty sure giggling is frowned upon.)

Robert is one of Fitzpatrick the Younger's chosen friends, which in this case means not just being part of an elite clique at school, but being bribed and bought with easy passes in said school, then being showered in promotions to ensure he does in fact build this mildly illegal airbases in good time, and then further showered with medals and awards for saving said airbases from being blown up when the war started, and by then, he was so far in there was nothing else he could do but keep holding his tongue.

It isn't a nice war. It's the sort of war that, should I ever be in a position to rule the world via hostile take over, I'd hope to wage. Brutal. Nasty. Efficient. Over in the space of a few months. Although the war was just the beginning of Fitzpatrick's downfall. In the aftermath, he took his whole empire down with him. And Robert sat by, and held his tongue.

Although the book could be swamped with moral lessons, (and thanks to Robert's brilliant wife Charlotte, is to a degree), it has draws no conclusions. Although Robert is consumed by guilt regarding everything he did and didn't do, he's not a bad man. Nor, given his actions and decisions, is he a good man. He is just a man. I like to think he was a kind one.

The relationship between Charlotte and Robert, while utterly lovely to read, irked me. Just around the edges. It's just one of those personal 'meh!' reactions to books that portray women as being strange, mysterious, enchanting and controlling creatures which men completely fail to understand. And yet, it was a beautiful relationship, and as a pair they worked perfectly, in terms of their lives and for the story.

However, my favourite character was Winifred Pularski. A complete thug of a man with a metal arm and a natural aptitude for killing, Fitzpatrick allowed him into his inner circle purely to act as a body guard. Too simple and loyal to ever betray him. He's a murderous brute. And such a lovely gentle man. It sounds a cliche, the killer who is actually a kitten, but Pularski was wonderful. He loved to fish, but wouldn't use hooks because he didn't want to hurt the fish he caught. He'd stroke them, in love with them, before releasing them. He loved Robert because Robert didn't buy him, but was a true friend. In a world almost entirely developed, he longed to see a tiger. He'd protect Robert, and Robert's wife, yet still assassinate for Fitzpatrick. He was such a nice man. My favourite gentle murderer.

Alas. The footnotes need EDITING! And CHECKING! To ensure they fall on the right page, aren't riddled with spelling errors, and if they reference another footnote, check that footnote actually EXISTS. I never did find out what the 'not men' were.

I cried in this book. I did my school girl giggle. I fell in love, fell in hate, and had too much fun with footnotes. There were dirigibles! There were steam powered battle ships! It was great. You should have been there.

VERDICT: You want this book. No, really, you do. You like Victoriana, steampunk, secret societies, world wars, and the downfall of empires. The footnotes want you baby, they want you bad.


  1. Anonymous13/3/06 08:46

    "You'll nod your head, and say, "Ah yes, Sir Tessa like that book so much she had its babies," and go about your business."

    Yeah, pretty much. Now, can you suggest some business I can be about that will help expunge the mental image of you having a book's babies?

    "Okay, it's coming... I can see the top of the dust jacket... PUSH, Ms Kum, that's right... congratulations! it's a hardcover!"

  2. Just pray it isn't twins.


    Good review, you've convinced me anyways, and I have just now finished jotting the title and author down in my little 'books and comics to buy' notebook.

    Oh yah...this being either my 3rd or fourth comment on your Blog, hi. I'm not stalking you or anything - I go by the nick of Wizz at s'march forum (don't post much though) and I like what you say, so here I am.

    Course, stalking could be arranged for a nominal fee it that's what your wanting?

  3. You! I've been trying to figure out for a while exactly who you are, and now it all makes sense. Hi Wizz. :)