The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
Review Summary: Overall, the novel worked, but just seemed to be lacking the depth to really bring everything to life, and probably could have benefited from expansion into a duology.
I really enjoy the way Flynn works his stories, developing multiple characters and viewpoints on the same thread, with each character having something intrinsically interesting about them as a person. His writing is excellent, his story ideas unusual enough to be remembered, and his plotting usually works very well throughout the novel.
In The January Dancer, Flynn’s characters are by necessity a little more sparsely drawn than usual, as the mystery of the motivations and character of the various people in the novel is a major part of the narrative. The true identity of the narrator can’t be tipped off before the end of the novel, though the effort does leave a lot of loose ends in this particular case.
Plot-wise, the story moved along logically enough until the end. The ending worked, but seemed rather abrupt, a quick, clean ending to what had all the promise of being a terrible, ugly, messy solution. If anything, the story could definately have been expanded to a larger, more in-depth and galaxy-spanning format – a fuller background may have lent the key events in the story more power than they were.
Thematically there were several interesting ideas in the novel – evidence and legends of “pre-humans”, a variety of governing bodies, enforcers, corporate interests, amalgamated world cultures, and the idea of multiple people running multi-faceted games against each other in their quest for a potentially powerful artifact. Again, the short format (350 pages, total) really limited what the author was able to accomplish in this realm, however.
Overall, the novel worked, but just seemed to be lacking the depth to really bring everything to life, and probably could have benefited from expansion into a duology.