So, here’s the first batch of discussion questions for the Lies of Locke Lamora read-along, with my responses:
1. If this is your first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, what do you think of it so far? If this is a re-read for you, how does the book stand up to rereading?
I’m loving it! There are some books where you feel like you’re putting a lot of effort in to get enjoyment out, but with Locke Lamora it’s effortless. Without being a comedy, it’s fun, in the prose style and in particular in the dialogue.
2. At last count, I found three time lines: Locke as as a 20-something adult, Locke meeting Father Chains for the first time, and Locke as a younger child in Shades Hill. How are you doing with the Flashback within a flashback style of introducing characters and the world?
Well, it depends how you count. I’d say there are two really important timelines: Locke as a child and Locke as an adult. The distinction between these is formally visible in the book’s structure, with the main chapters being adult Locke and the prologue and interludes being child Locke. The child Locke sections further jump around between the business with Chains (first between Chains and the Thiefmaker, and then Locke meeting Chains) and Locke’s earlier childhood.
The Locke-as-adult sections jump around in time a little as well: they start in medias res with Locke being throttled in an alley, and then jump back to show us how we got there. The sections with Bug don’t always quite align temporally with those with Locke, either.
So we’ve got jumping around in both timelines, especially in the child-Locke one. The difference, for me, though, is that the early-childhood flashbacks seem to have caught up with the Locke-and-Chains timeline: they’ve tracked Locke from early childhood to events just a couple of days before he met Chains. Whereas we don’t yet know exactly how the Locke-and-Chains timeline relates to the adult-Locke timeline: there’s a big gap that the book hasn’t (yet?) explored. We can guess at a lot of what happened during this time, but there are mysteries as well. (What becomes of Chains, for example–is he still around?)
3. Speaking of the world, what do you think of Camorr and Lynch’s world building?
It’s subtle, which I like. I get the impression that world-building isn’t the point of Lynch’s book: it’s about characters, and character-scale drama. When the political structure of the world beyond Camorr becomes relevant (as it does in Locke’s con), the book tells me exactly what I need to know at the point I need to know it. Of Camorr itself, I think there are just the right number of fantastic touches. There’s the Elderglass, and the few uses of magic (gentled animals and alchemical botany), but for the most part Camorr feels like an easily accessible version of Venice with a dash of Dickensian London. The fantastic touches aren’t once that need to have a big effect on the society or on the plot: Elderglass is big dumb architecture that people just build around, and the magic is of the sort that provides flavourful toys for the setting’s aristocracy but doesn’t have major knock-on effects for society. There’s a lot of fun to be had in speculative fiction with exploring how society would be changed by a particular magic or technology, and I’m not getting that from Locke Lamora–but world-building isn’t the point of the book.
4. Father Chains and the death offering. . . quite the code of honor for thieves, isn’t it? What kind of person do you think Chains is going to mold Locke into?
Well, into the person we see in the adult-Locke timeline, presumably. So far that looks like a cunning con man with the ability to plan far ahead and play the long game; and it’s that forward-planning ability that Chains said he would have to teach Locke. The impression I get from the child-Locke segments is that Chains wants to mould Locke into someone like himself, a cunning thief and con-man, and the implication is that Chains had a mentor who did the same for him, and Locke will eventually take on apprentices of his own.
It’s why Chains wants to do this that I find more puzzling, so I hope I’ll find the answer to that later into the book. The fact that Locke was trained from childhood to be a thief and con-man, and that the Gentlemen Bastards was a pre-existing group rather than something that he formed, is the most surprising thing for me based on my preconceptions from reading the back-cover blurb. Possibly Locke’s character loses something from that: he’s been groomed into the man he is by Chains, rather than forging a path for himself.
5. It’s been a while since I read this, and I’d forgotten how much of the beginning of the book is pure set up, for the characters, the plot, and the world. Generally speaking, do you prefer set up and world building done this way, or do you prefer to be thrown into the deep end with what’s happening?
I almost always prefer to be thrown into the deep end. Locke Lamora does its setup a lot better than most books: Locke’s childhood is an interesting story, and doesn’t read too much like setup for the main plot. Both the main timeline and the childhood timeline begin with interesting hooks: Locke being sold under threat of death, and Locke being fake-strangled in an alley as part of a con. They both keep the interest going. But even so, I’m in two minds about whether the prologue was necessary. Perhaps Locke would be a more interesting character if I didn’t know the details of his childhood. I don’t know–I’ll have to see how things turn out.
6. If you’ve already started attempting to pick the pockets of your family members (or even thought about it!) raise your hand.
Ah, no. For me, Locke isn’t a pickpocket (or rather, that’s not what’s interesting about him) – he’s a con-main. So rather than making me want to pick pockets, it makes me want to spin an elaborate lie that will lead to my family and friends giving me all their money with a smile. Not that I would try to do something like that of course.