Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Incrementalists

"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign ..." -- Five Man Electrical Band

The Incrementalists may not have five coauthors - just two, Steven Brust and Skyler White, but it is a semiotic adventure. The protagonists are part of a secret society that has existed throughout human history trying to make the world a better place through subtle manipulation.

Secret societies usually come in pairs, whether it be The Illuminatus! Trilogy's Order vs Chaos (Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson) or The Da Vinci Code's Freemasonry vs Opus Dei (Dan Brown). The Incrementalists doesn't rely on the typical duality of good versus evil. Instead it is a call to let our humanity overrule our more basic natures. While not a polemic, The Incrementalists is colored throughout with a progressive, liberal, socialist worldview. It is this world view, to individually and collectively make the world a better place, that drives the protagonists and serves as the novel's final twist.

I am not familiar with the previous work of Skyler White, but I have long been a fan of Steven Brust. Those familiar with Brust's Vlad Taltos novels will often recognize his narrative voice in the words of Phil,one of the two main characters. Phil supports himself playing poker, specifically Texas Hold 'Em, in the casinos of Las Vegas. Brust also has a personal affection/obsession with poker and with two main characters, one male and one female, and with the story told from their alternating points of view, it's easy to tie the male coauthor to the main male character and the female coauthor to the female main character. While it's easy to make this inference, I would be surprised if that's really how simple the collaboration worked.

Regardless the mechanics of collaboration, The Incrementalists is seamless and fast-paced. It's a page-turner that keeps you interested and is difficult to put down. An interesting story, well-crafted, with a steady, but light, call to all to become practical utopians.

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