Bartleby and James

One of the suckiest parts of being a writer is that there’s no money in it.  That makes it very hard to keep up with my “I want to read that next!” list; how do you buy books when your bank account tanks fairly regularly.  What’s a hungry, broke bibliovore to do?

Check out Smashwords.

Yeah, yeah, I know. You never know what you’re going to get on those indie sites. “You get what you pay for,” and all those old chestnuts.  And Babbage knows, I’ve gotten some duds fishing in those waters.  But then again, every once in a while I find a treasure. And such is the case with The Collected Bartleby and James Adventures, by Michael Coorlim.

The premise is almost laughably predictable.  James Wainright is an inventor of steampunky gadgets, and the narrator of the stories.  His roommate and partner in adventure, Alton Bartleby, is a rich dillettante and man about town.  Together they solve crimes and have adventures that James Bond would feel very at home in.

This is a collection of short stories about what mischief this odd couple find themselves in.  The first story is about a beautiful, magician assassin named the Spider.  In the second, they are trying to stop a saboteur from crashing a dirigible on its maiden flight.  In the third story, they are chasing a serial killer called Scissorman.  The fourth story involves a kidnapped medium and what appears to be angry spirits.  You can pretty much imagine how it all plays out.

Earlier I said the premise is “laughably predictable.”  I don’t take that back.  But that doesn’t make it bad.  Bartleby and James hits every cliche going.  But the writing style is very light and readable, the characters are engaging, the plots, while predictable, are fun.

Fun!  There’s a word to conjure with!  Here’s a confession for you.  I read so many books every week.  So many books, so many words, so many stories ranging from dead serious to completely stupid.  Much as I love it, it can be so tiring sometimes.  We writers sometimes take this whole writing business a little too seriously.  Everything Must Have Meaning!  Characters must Develop!  Plots must be intricate and deep and whatever crap is being served up this week.  Sometimes, I think we forget about just having fun, and letting our characters have fun.

It takes writers like Michael Coorlim to remind us why we got into this business to start with.  Coorlim’s not trying to Have Deep Meaning, or to say something important about the world.  He’s here to have a romp and laugh and enjoy the hell out of his characters.  And honestly, he’s having such a good time, he just drags you along with him.  I keep hoping there’ll be another installment out soon.

Don’t pick up Bartleby and James looking for Deep Meaning.  Don’t go looking for character development or examination of the importance of the fluff in your navel.  You ain’t gonna find it.  But do pick up Bartleby and James if you want to smile, if you want to have a rollicking adventure with dirigibles and goggles, and if you just want to have fun.

Oooh!    It looks like he has a second series of short stories set in the Steampunk era, named Chronicles of a Gentlewoman.  If his gentlewoman is as much fun as the boys, it’ll be another afternoon well spent!

Categories: books, Review, Steampunk | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Bartleby and James

  1. Glad you enjoyed the book, AJ! It was an enjoyable writing project. The series matures a bit through the successive titles as it finds its voice, but I try to keep it fast-paced, fun, and interesting. A Gentlewoman’s Chronicle ends on a darker note, leading into the third book, March of the Cogsmen, which draws everything else we’ve seen so far together.

    I love writing steampunk, so I’ll keep writing this series as long as people keep buying them.

    • That’s what drew me into this one: I could just imagine you cackling with mad glee every time you wrote a new paragraph. It oozed “I’m having FUN!” I just love that, and I do think we sometimes forget that. I didn’t know about the March of the Cogsmen book. Definitely going to have to go bookmark that bad boy!

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