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December 8, 2013 / minusbar

Book Review: The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White

Book Review: “The Incrementalists” by Steven Brust and Skyler White

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.

I was initially very confused. Poker? Las Vegas? I don’t speak that language, and it got a bit technical with the terms in the first few pages. I’m so glad that I continued, though– it was very worth it! In fact, The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust and Skylar White, was one of the better books I’ve read this year.

There were two narrators for the entire novel: Phil and Ren, the two protagonists. Usually I’m a little reserved about more than one point of view, but the authors managed to seamlessly switch back and forth without missing a beat. It was doubly effective since both characters were just so darn real. Even though there was a whole bunch of craziness going on they were still down to earth and relatable. I especially liked that even though they were in love there were doubts about the whole situation, just as there would be in real life. No perfect story here! Yet, in a way, it was perfect, because it was realistic.

The setting, as I previously mentioned, was in Las Vegas. It was limited to a few locations within the city though, so even though there was poker involved the rest of the characteristics associated with the city were mostly absent. I think this was both a good and bad thing. On one hand, if done correctly, a little more of the flavor of Las Vegas could have enhanced the story. On the other…well, let’s just say it could have been a disaster. The point is moot anyway.

The plot reminded me of a time travel movie. Not in any specific way, but in that I was always a few steps behind. There were quite a few twists and turns that I was not expecting. This only added to the excitement! There were several parts that I could not have predicted.

Overall it was an awesome journey through an alternate version of reality that I would gladly revisit. If you’d like to check it out you can find it here!




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