association-list a veritable mint for dunning-kruggerands

A Serpent in the Gears, by Margaret Ronald

Story here, for discussion here.

As opposed to the first two stories here, I slotted this one into my ‘interesting failures’ category. I did this mostly because I think that it’s a tolerable story and a great example of a major error in genre fiction.

The story here moves along quickly, with deftly sketched characters straight out of steampunk central casting. We’ve a valet with a secret, an expedition into an interdicted country, vaunting overconfidence, and eventually an awakening to a grave danger. Everything flows smoothly and is topped off by a fine action sequence.

And yet… The story is somehow weightless, taking each element of the subgenre that is uses out of the box and placing it just so. Noting new is originated and nothing is actually said (I suppose that one could argue that the statement is that aggressive hegemonizing swarms are bad, or that individuality is important, or that loyalty is more important than kind, but all these seem to go without saying). We are told a story. It is fluent, complete, and hollow, concerned primarily with manipulation of scenery and furniture. No element of the standard building blocks is questioned, or goes unused (it’s even hinted that somewhere out there are magicians, although we never seem to see any).

It could be, as sometimes seems the case with BCS, that we’re reading an opening chapter or prologue, refitted into a standalone piece while the larger work languishes in draft, but if so, this one needs the counterweight of the main body to give it weight.

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