Reviews of Dinner at Deviant's Palace (1985)
Review by andya (2009-05-27)
This book was published back in 1985; it was in a bookshelf I had to clear following a flood and I decided to re-read it. I found a gas-board docket from 1986 used as a bookmark, so it's nearly thirty years since I last read it, and for me it's stood the test of time.
I probably bought it in the first place because the hero, Gregorio "Greg" Rivas, is a musician; I know from experience how well some of the performance scenes are rendered. Rivas himself and the other main characters are very well developed, with the bit-parts having just enough detail to support the plot; there are few, if any, extraneous elements or loose ends.
The plot itself rattles along with a number of unexpected twists and turns that I'd forgotten: it soon becomes clear that the setting is a post-apocalyptic USA, but that's handled rather more imaginatively than many other authors have managed and many details came as a surprise even though I have a pretty good memory for such things. Perhaps because of the unexpected turns, there are a few points where Powers (or a very good editor) adds in a couple of lines of dialogue to remind the reader of something they might have skipped over earlier.
It was with some sadness that I turned the last page, but although there are a number of unresolved points that could have made a sequel, the ending is such that I wouldn't have wanted the author to add anything more.
As a caveat, although I like virtually all of Tim Powers's work and think this is one of his best, the writing is a bit of an acquired taste. The last part of the book is pretty much off-the-wall, even by my standards, the denouement making good use of a couple of plays on words worthy of Pratchett on speed. I described the plot-line to my wife and her comment was that it's 'terminally weird'; I'd guess that if you're not hooked after the first fifty or so pages, it might not be worth persevering. I, however, was sufficiently hooked the second time around to want to find somewhere quiet to read the last fifty pages all in one go.