THE BOOK OF THE STILL by Paul Ebbs

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Hmmm.

There's lots of good stuff in here. The book particularly stands out because of its mountain of great ideas - there's fun stuff at every turn. The settings are nice, too, and there's an interesting new alien race in the form of the Unnoticed.

There's other good stuff, too. We can't remember when we've liked a book's opening as much as this. And there are some reasonable characters, including an enjoyable take on the Doctor. The situation Fitz finds himself in is particularly high-concept and is another one of the book's Great Ideas.

Why, then, with all this cool stuff around, did we keep feeling we wanted to skip bits? There's no one Terrible Thing, more an accumulation of niggles. First of all, it's not nearly as funny as it thinks it is: all that fourth-wall-breaking irony somehow falls flat on its face in the translation from writer to reader. Then there's the structure: because it takes a while to work out what's going on, some of the early bits, while captivatingly zany, end up by skimming straight over your head. And while the mysteriousness is intriguing, it means that much of the early part of the book is lacking in narrative drive.

While several of the characters have a lot of potential, Ebbs doesn't necessarily make the most of it. For example, in an effort (presumably) to set up some dramatic conflict, he has Anji disliking Rhian for very little reason, which makes the snarkiness between them feel pretty pointless and the Obligatory Character Development of them getting over it not very fascinating. And the downside of Fitz being, shall we say, not himself, is that consequently we're not particularly interested in what he's trying to do.

And then there's the central concept: the Book Of The Still itself. We found this frustratingly underused: it's a very cool concept, but we would like to have seen it explored more instead of aggravatingly sidelined amongst all the other stuff going on.

It's well worth a read, for the terrific ideas if nothing else. It's just a shame that the rest doesn't quite match up.

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