Friday, September 14, 2012

[Book Review] GIANT THIEF -- Where's the Likeable Rogue?

Easie Demasco is a character with whom I am conflicted. On the one hand, he is a witty character who has a well developed sense of humor. One the other hand, he's a jerk -- one who never really becomes more than a jerk. He's also the strongest and most compelling feature of David Tallerman's novel GIANT THIEF (published by Angry Robot Books).






GIANT THIEF is a fairly straight forward tale of:

1) Thief acquires MacGuffin not understanding it's value.
2) Thief meets people who understand value of MacGuffin and seek to use thief in battle against evil.
3) Well...you kind of know the rest.

Often these tales include a heroic journey or follow a bildungsroman format in which our Thief undergoes some major transformation or grows in some way -- usually evolving morally. Not so with GIANT THIEF.   Easie begins the story as a selfish and greedy rogue, and he ends the story as a selfish and greedy rogue with more grandiose plans than before.


Technically,  that does count as some kind of character development, but it lacks the moral evolution that often occurs in these tales.  Easie goes from a petty thief to an individual who seeks to become a master thief. He goes from pick pocket to one who wants to become a Thomas Crown-esque figure, but he lacks the sophisticated charm of a Thomas Crown and has instead a clownish sense of humor.  If one were to cast Easie for a film, one would look more to comedic talent than to cool sexuality.  He's more Daffy Duck than Han Solo.

There are quite a few clumsy moments in the book and the chapters establish and follow a  predictable rhythm. One is tempted to say that the book is one that isn't to be recommended based on these flaws, as they are often fatal to good storytelling. And yet...

I keep finding myself wanting to throttle Easie Damasco, or watch him get caned, or at least have a long talk with him to wake him up and set him on a more moral path. I keep finding myself imagining conversations with him.

All of which means that Tallerman has achieved something that is often rare within a novel, he's created a realistic character who lingers in ones mind weeks after a book has been read. That is a good thing indeed. If only Easie were more likeable. He's a rogue and a scoundrel...and that's it. He's not loveable. He's not nice. He doesn't harbor a hidden heroic heart. But he is interesting and I want to know more about him


[Gaming Notes -- Contains a minor Spoiler]

The book's MacGuffin and interpretation of Giants are perfectly suited for adaptation to the gaming table.  The MacGuffin is a non-magical stone sacred to the Giants that signifies who is the Giant's chief.  In Giant society the orders of the chief must be followed without question, even if they violate the morality of the tribe members.  The Giants in this case are gentle pacifist vegetarians, but they are asked to do some terrible things.  All of which could make for a compelling and morally complex D&D adventure.

You can play with PC preconceptions regarding Giants and slowly introduce them to the moral complexity of the situation.  How many Giants will the players defeat, or even kill, before they discover the secret of the stone?  How will they feel about their actions later.

These are good questions, that can make for a rewarding adventure as well.
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