_The Thief_, with spoilers galore--extra long for your enjoyment

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sat Mar 9 16:49:30 EST 2002

On Fri, 08 Mar 2002 09:10:46 -0700, Robyn Starkey wrote:

>Okay, I have read the books now, after steadfastly not looking at all the 
>spoiler messages. So I really appreciated Melissa's summary of the 
>discussion so far. I have to say, I agree with her arguments in a 
>theoretical way. *Except* I was not taken in by Gen's deception. I guess it 
>has to do with having read a lot of Dorothy Dunnett, who is always 
>'cheating' like this, so you are constantly on the lookout, and she is 
>heaps more subtle. I thought Gen's actions were quite heavily signposted, 
>and I wasn't taken in for a moment. This didn't spoil the climax of the 
>book for me, because I was on the inner with the narrator, rather than 
>being surprised.

I'm not sure about why you weren't taken in--because I read Dorothy Dunnett
too and can't recall ever being fooled by her.  I think she telegraphs
almost everything very well, without making it feel like "boy, I can see
what's coming, why are these characters so stupid?"  So what I'm wondering
is, are there any books that *do* surprise you?  Because I think of a few
examples where I read something that just seemed so totally transparent, and
nobody else figured it out.  It was as though something just seemed off, or
I was in just the right mood, or the writer used an ambiguous word and my
primary meaning for the word was an abnormal one, but exactly the right
meaning to give everything away.

(Someone I know saw _The Sixth Sense_--have people outside the US seen this?
Anyway, it has this surprise ending which practically no one expected, but
this one friend said "oh yeah, I knew what was happening, it just seemed to
me like that would be a cool surprise twist and it wasn't ruled out by the
movie."  Looking at it afterward, it all fits together.  But in the movie,
it's hard to detect because the movie itself is so gripping.  So that's an
example of what I mean.  Probably Robyn is just really smart, which I would
totally believe as well.  :)

>Please note, I am not saying Melissa is wrong, but I am saying, here's 
>another perspective: I am not at all sure that the reader was necessarily 
>meant to be taken in. In my reading, the book works just as well if you are 
>not surprised.

I do think the reader's meant to be taken in, but that's based on asking
people "did you figure out what the truth was before you got to the end?"
because so far, you're the only one, and I don't think it's that obscure.
But it's still good even if you know what's coming; I actually did know,
thanks to starting the sequel and then dropping it after about fifty pages.
Based on _The Queen of Attolia_, _The Thief_ was not as I expected it
(primarily the POV shift, not anything earthshattering).

> I also think there is a well-established pedigree of writing 
>that encompasses this kind of cheating, so I don't agree that *by 
>definition* it spoils the book.

I didn't say it spoiled the book.  I said the author had to
cheat--manipulate her writing--in order to accomplish her goal.  That's not
the same thing at all.  And DWJ is the Queen Bee of misdirection, but not
one of her books depends on hiding things from the reader that should, by
the rules she set down, have been known to the reader.  What makes me call
this cheating is that the only times we don't get to see the things Gen
does--PHYSICALLY does, not his reactions to stuff or his ambiguous
references to his past--are, coincidentally, the things we would need to
figure out what's going on.  But I would like to know what books you think
fit into this kind of cheating.  Maybe I'm just not thinking about the right

>I liked both the books heaps. One of the best things about The Thief was 
>the description of the landscape, which I found very appealing. I suspect 
>this is because I am homesick for Melbourne in this horribly cold burst of 
>Calgary weather. Also, I like that she used my daughter's name in Q of A. I 
>will definitely read more if she writes more.

I wish I had this sort of affinity with a landscape that she does--it sure
seems like Greece had a huge impact on her.  (She used your daughter's name?
Very cool.  Much nicer than having all your literary namesakes be brittle,
ditzy, or mean.  :)

Melissa Proffitt
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