I spent a lot of this book waiting for something to happen. I spent even more of it waiting for that to be something with a speculative bent. All I had up until the last dozen or so pages was the main characters seeing something that might have been a figure at the limits of his visual acuity through a set of binoculars.
I want to say there’s a Lovecraft influence here (a lot of other people have), and there are certainly plenty of references, but while Lovecraft tended towards the weird and bizarre, this book tends a lot more towards the boring. Right up until the last couple of chapters, all we really have is the story of a recovering alcoholic with weird friends trying to solve a mystery that may just be a faulty recollection from his alcoholic days.
It’s well written, certainly, especially when compared to the last Leiber book I read (The Wanderer), and the characters might be interesting if they had anything to actually do, but the plot is rather plodding and uninteresting and there really isn’t anything speculative about the story until the climax of the novel.
Yes, the book won a major speculative fiction award and there really isn’t anything speculative about it until the last 10% of the story.
Overall rating: 2 stars. I find it hard to go lower since I did manage to finish the book (a first on the WFA quest) and didn’t hate it. I just didn’t find anything to really love about it.by