My rating: 2 of 5 stars
‘The Builders’ is, I guess, intended as a satire of grimdark-style fantasy. In the afterword, the author himself refers to the story as a ‘one-note joke.’ The joke is that all the characters – a nasty, brutal bunch – are small, furry animals. The trouble is that – yeah, that’s all there really is to it. It’s just not that funny.
The style aspired to, as well as the plot and content, reminded me most of Scott Lynch – and the thing is, Scott Lynch IS really funny and clever. It’s hard to poke fun at something by being less amusing than the original.
The plot involves one of those old gangs of thieves, being re-gathered for one more dastardly plan. Far too much page real estate is devoted to painstakingly introducing each of the gang, one by one, and detailing how each is recruited, induced or blackmailed into signing up for the venture. It got tedious. By the time we get around to the predictably bloody and disastrous mess that bringing this untrustworthy crew together was bound to result in, I was ready for it to be over.
Full disclosure: I’ve never liked stories with anthropomorphic, talking animals. I’m not sure why. I guess there have been a few exceptions, but in general, though I love reading stories about aliens of every physical description; start calling those characters animals and I just get turned off. I’d heard enough good things about this story that I’d hoped it would be turn out to be one of my rare exceptions, but – it wasn’t. If you find the idea of a talking mouse in trousers inherently amusing, your mileage may vary significantly.
Read as part of the Hugo Voters’ Packet.