Thursday, July 21, 2011

Central Park Knight

By C.J. Henderson
Published by Tor Books

The cover and back copy of C.J. Henderson’s Central Park Knight can be boiled down to a simple equation of awesomeness: Indiana Jones + Dragons = YAY! Needless to say, I go fairly excited. Unfortunately, the story did not manage to reach my hopes.

You’ve got Professor Piers Knight, a dowdy and somewhat eccentric scholar who works at the Brooklyn Museum and, in addition to having nearly limitless access to arcane artifacts from past cultures and untold knowledge of their every facet is also quite proficient at the use of these sometimes magical artifacts. After saving the world twice in not quite so many months, the good professor finds himself faced with the reemergence of Dragonkind in the world. Worse, one specific dragon wishes nothing more than total subjugation of humanity, and he is perfectly willing to use humanities nuclear capabilities to accomplish this end.

From the start, the protagonist made it very hard for me to get into this book. Piers Knight is too perfect, at least from what we are constantly told. Too assured, too quick witted and too all around effective. Likewise, his initially bumbling intern is quickly revealed to be a genius. From page one, there is no doubt that they will survive and triumph over the cartoonishly single minded big bad. I can’t find it in myself to care about anyone this perfect and it leaves no room for tension in the story and no interest in him as a character.

In addition, Mr. Henderson spends quite a bit of time telling us how much ass his character kicks and how suave he is, without showing us any of it. This dependence upon telling over showing would be grating enough on its own, but gets worse when coupled with lines like the following: “So, tell me young George Rainert, would you care for the chance to be torn apart, burned to death and otherwise pounded into salt by an immortal nightmare beyond understanding, or would you rather we get you back to the city and put you in a cab so you can eat chips and drink diet soda while uploading the story of your day to the internet.” Instead of being suave and cool, this comes across as more self-consciously cumbersome than Quentin Tarantino at its worst. This guy, in real life, would be the dork who tries way too hard to sound aloof and cool while firmly placing his lack of social skills on display. What we are told definitely does not jibe with what we see and I do not get the sense that the author is doing this deliberately in an attempt to make a more complex tale.

Granted, Henderson’s writing style is brisk and moves smoothly and I kinda dug the transmutation of the Cthulhu Mythos into dragons (even if calling them “Great Old Ones” is a bit heavy handed). Heck, the story may have enough to it to make up for the previously listed faults, but the central character is incredibly important to any story and I couldn’t get myself past this one to notice anything else.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

No comments: