Review: The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White

September 21, 2013 Review 2

Review: The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler WhiteThe Incrementalists by Skyler White, Steven Brust
Published by Tor on September 24th, 2013
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: Graphic Sex
Reviewed by: Chris
3 Stars

"Secret societies, immortality, murder mysteries and Las Vegas all in one book? Shut up and take my money." —John Scalzi

The Incrementalists—a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories.

Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste—and argued with her—for most of the last four hundred years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules—not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world.

"Watch Steven Brust. He's good. He moves fast. He surprises you. Watching him untangle the diverse threads of intrigue, honor, character and mayhem from amid the gears of a world as intricately constructed as a Swiss watch is a rare pleasure." —Roger Zelazny

THE INCREMENTALISTS novel is one of those novels I expected to pick up and immediately love. I mean, c'mon, it's set in Vegas, involves secret societies and is co-written by the amazing Steven Brust. Needless to say my hopes were extremely high when I started this book and then they quickly came crashing down.

I freely admit that my score for this novel is partly based on the expectations I had for THE INCREMENTALISTS. Reviews are entirely subjective and it shouldn't bug so much, but it does. This is a good book and I feel that if I hadn't known who the authors were or what the book was about going in I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more.

The book is told from the alternating first person viewpoints of Phil and Renee. Phil is an old hand at being an Incrementalist and has existed in one form or another for thousands of years. The Incrementalist society itself is an incredibly cool idea; they're a secret society consisting of exactly 200 people that exists to make the world a better place a little bit at a time through a process known as "meddling". They use this power to nudge the powers that be along a path that the Incrementalists have decided is the best course for mankind as a whole. Neat, right?

But then there's those two alternating first person views. There are only a few series told in the first person that I like to begin with so dealing with a book that has two (and, really, three) first person views was an exercise in frustration. It also didn't help that I never made much of a connection with any of the characters. They're all cool in concept, but quickly lose their charm after a couple hundred pages.

Brust and White are both excellent writers and the book does move and extremely brisk pace. I couldn't help but wish that it had slowed down a bit and explored more of the world they created. Even so THE INCREMENTALISTS is still worth picking up if you're looking for something completely different than the other urban fantasy novels currently out there.

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2 Responses to “Review: The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White”

  1. Bibliotropic

    I’m actually relieved to see that I wasn’t the only person who was less than thrilled with this book. I expected to like it a lot, but in the end it really wasn’t that enjoyable, and had a lot of problems for me. And I felt like I was in a serious minority there, because everyone else I knew was rating it 4 or 5 stars, and there’s me wondering what they saw that I kept missing. Great review, and I agree with all the points you made.

    • Chris

      Ditto. I try not to look at reviews for a book till I’ve finished mine so when I was checking them out I thought I really missed something major in the book. Glad to see there’s at least one other person who felt the same about the book as me. 🙂