Friday, April 17, 2009

Audiobook : Rude Mechanicals

Someone mentioned this book in the comments, and I apologize for losing the original reference.  This short book (about 10 chapters, under 3 hours audio) by Kage Baker is apparently part of a series, and deals with the (mis-)adventures of a couple of time travelling cyborgs.

Why do we care?  Well, because in this installment they’re both stationed in 1934 at the Hollywood Bowl, working on and around Max Reinhardt’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Mickey Rooney turns up briefly, and I realize that we’re ultimately talking about a sort of alternate history version of the movie.

The adventure itself is a bit slapstick, putting the prim-and-proper cyborg (who cares only about not getting his company car dirty) together with the Sam Spade wannabe with a closet full of trenchcoats who can never seem to stay out of trouble, and sticking them both into a big mess as they try to recover a diamond that keeps falling into the wrong hands over (and over and over) again.

This all plays out amid rehearsals for Dream, and we get a fair share of hearing the lines delivered (albeit in a somewhat nasally narration that I didn’t love).  The most interesting portrayal in the story is that of the director, who has such a perfect vision for his faerie wood that he sends workmen to go out and dig up more trees from the surrounding area and bring them to the set.  While complaining that he wished he’d gotten WC Fields and Charlie Chaplin for crucial roles, he still manages in mime to demonstrate some key scenes, such as Bottom’s great awakening.  It is telling that I would rather hear a description of a director who loves his craft miming what he wants (since he speaks only German and his actors do not), than to hear the actual lines delivered by someone who has no idea what he is saying.

It’s a cute story, it entertained me.  Now that I know it’s a series I will actually go check it out, although I highly doubt that she’s in the habit of doing Shakespeare crossovers.  But you never know.


materkb said...

It's not set in an alternate history. Reinhardt was a real director who did in fact stage MND at the Hollywood Bowl before MGM hired him to direct a film version. Every single detail in that part of the story is true, including the torch-bearing wedding procession getting lost on the hillside.

The only made up parts concerned the cyborgs and the subplot about the diamond (though the Lost Treasure of Cahuenga Pass is, or was, real). Trust me on this. I wrote the damned thing.

Duane said...

Don't get me wrong - I liked it, especially the Shakespeare. Maybe alternate history is not the right technical term, that was just my way of saying that some parts are real life and some are not.

You have me intrigued now, however...Ms Baker? Is this a pseudonym? Because there's a Kathleen Bartholemew aka materkb over on Amazon who coincidentally writes rave 5star reviews of Kage Baker books. Doing a little astroturfing? Tsk tsk! :)

materkb said...

Nope. That's my sister and, yes, she did write a couple of positive reviews on Amazon back before I told her it wasn't worth the bother. She has a Google blogger account and I don't.

We both review books over at Green Man Review, under our respective names.

You can dislike Rude Mechanicals if you want. Everyone's entitled to an opinion.