I was recently sent a review copy of The Reavers by George MacDonald Fraser (author of the Flashman Papers). I have fond memories of reading about Flashman, probably because his adventures were among the first I ever read involving S-E-X. Vague, faint memories, but good ones. When my shiny red paperback arrived in the mail, I was ready for adventure, romance and laughs.
From the first page I could see MacDonald Fraser was aiming for something special. I mean, only Proust in A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, can get away with a page-long sentance, right?
That first, complex, confusing sentence promises a book that plays with language, anachronisms, reader expectations... Whoopee, hold on tight for an interesting ride -- except it isn't. This book tries too hard to be funny. It indulges too often in metatextual comments and writerly word-play. I usually love that kind of stuff but in The Reavers, it just slowed down the flow. Instead of a fun romp it felt like work to keep reading. The characters didn't touch me because the writer was trying so doggone hard to make fun of them. I gave up trying to finish several times although I did manage to drag myself to the climax. Need I say more?