Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

Sir Apropos of Nothing (Trilogy)

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By Peter David
How apropos…
Rating: YOSH!
Read: Fall 05, April/May 2006

The tale of Sir Apropos of Nothing is not a particularly joyful one, but it is very amusing and insightful. Definately one of my faves.

Apropos is indeed the fellow’s name, and he is the most cynical, pessimistic, jaded young anti-hero ever. I mean EVARR. Apropos sees the world as a series of epics. There are heroes, villains, sidekicks, hapless bystanders… and characters who get a brief walk-on role, spur the hero forward, and then are never heard from again. Apropos sees himself as the latter–and it certainly seems to be true.

This is a LONG review because it contains a write up of all three books. Enjoy!

In the first book we are introduced to Apropos, our narrator. How he came to be in this world is no a pretty one: his mother, a prostitute, was gang raped by a group of traveling knights. The innkeeper at which she worked found the whole situation rather ironic, and so the baby boy became Apropos. …of nothing, but still just… Apropos. Due to the manner of his siring Apropos has no love for chivalry, as it is clearly little more than hypocrisy. He is also lame of leg and finds himself an object of ridicule in the village. He finds himself making friends with Tacit, an orphan who lives in the forest by his wits and wily skills.

Until Apropos realizes that Tacit is a Hero, and Apropos has been caught up in the tale. Well! Enough is e-bloody-nough! Apropos usurps the role and rescues the (slightly insane) Princess Entipy, setting off yet another terrifying chain of events. For his heroism, he is knighted, making him truly Sir Apropos of Nothing.

Let us keep in mind that Apropos does not want to die. He openly labels himself a coward, and repeatedly wonders how it is that quests and adventures keep presenting themselves to him when his first instinct is always to hightail it outta Dodge. Some suspect his poor attitude brings it on himself…

…like, say, his pessimism. Everyone he meets either wants to kill him (everyone) or dies (his mother). And he’s always right. Especially about things not turning out well.

They don’t.

The Woad to Wuim
Apropos escapes with his life and the companionship of Sharee, a weaver he and Tacit met way back in The Beginning. Sharee would also like to kill Apropos–but that whole business with The One Thing really wasn’t his fault… (LOTR fans, snicker away!)

Through a lengthy series of mishaps Apropos is rendered unconscious… and when he comes to he finds himself to be the Peacelord of Wuin, a southerly region on the far side of The Middle Finger land bridge. His limp is gone. Men throw down their lives for him. He is a conqueror, a leader-!!

What the hell just happened to him!? One minute dying in a desert, the next here?!

Yes, I had a problem with this leap. Mainly because it wasn’t ‘solved’ until the very end and Apropos forgot about the troubles really quickly. There’s a good reason for that but I wish it had been more obvious. I felt this book was a bit lengthy, and I didn’t enjoy it as much, but it serves its purpose.

Apropos was… happy. Sort of. You see, what’s fascinating about this book is that we get to really see inside the mind of that conqueroring, barbaric hero/villain. As Apropos honestly admits, it all seemed rational and righteous in the moment. He convinced himself so. He wanted so badly to maintain being the center of his own story for once…

Of course, it can’t last forever. It ends very spectacularly, and I suggest you make note of Entipy’s favorite deity in Book 1 if you’d like a hint.

Tong Lashing
As you can see, puns are rife. Here Apropos meets Anais Ninjas (who spout lewd poetry between trying to stab him) and the Skank Kei family, lead by Skank Kei Ho.

If you love cheesy Asian cinema, Apropos’s got ya covered. China and Japan and smushed into Chinpan, a very large island very far from Wuin. Apropos departs Wuin ASAP, by boat, but a run-in with a mage sends him overboard. He washes up on the shores some ways from a village, where Apropos gets the shock of his life. These people are deformed! Their eyes! Their skin! Their–! Oh, wait. They’re staring back. And they all share these features. …Apropos is not in Isteria OR Wuin anymore.

Here, honor is more important than life. The Imperior is a deity who knows everything, and to suggest otherwise means death. The simple people of the village of Hosbiyu take Apropos in and teach him their language, etc, while he takes part in the farming. He is happy with the way things are, happy to be away from all his troubles… but they still bother him. He seeks wisdom from Chinpan Ali, the wise old man who can dispatched three armed thugs without breaking a sweat. It’s every ‘take the fly from my hand, younf grasshopper’ spoof put together–and yet, while parody and satire are this series’ bread and butter, nothing is so over the top that it seems implausible or too outrageous. Alas, the Anais Ninjas kill Ali, and Apropos feels the need to avenge him.

Wait, avenge? As in, put his own life at risk for the sake of someone else? *gasp* Apropos is a dynamic character, folks! He really does CHANGE! And as they’re told from the perspective of several decades later, he is very honest about all of his faults and what he was thinking at the time. That alone makes these fantastic.

I’m not really happy with the ending. Mostly because it’s a very pessimistic ending and I keep hoping that THIS time things will settle down a bit for Apropos. I don’t believe the series is finished. I’ve sent an email Peter David’s way and hope he’ll respond.

David makes a point of not retelling the books that came before. Apropos alludes to them, picking out key details that I can see would entice someone to go find the other books, but never gives them away.

You will not be bored. You will be intellectually stimulated, surprised by really funny puns (I got some odd looks on the train), and totally intrigued. I can’t say they made me happy, but they’ve made me a better writer and reader.

Two thumbs up per book = six!


Written by Shen

May 17, 2006 at 1:15 am

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