Well, hello there, everyone!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve missed this place. Life got in the way once again, but I’m glad to be back with another spork for you guys. The source of this spork is a book my sister picked up that she seemed relatively excited about, and wanted me to take a look at after she’d finished it. However, once she’d gotten to the ending she told me it was really disappointing, so I thought I’d take another look at it; this time in more detail. I read through a few pages, along with the blurb on the back. It wasn’t encouraging.

I have no issue with young adult as a genre of literature. It has every right to exist and the people who read it have every right to read it and enjoy it, and I will not try to take that away from them. My only issue with young adult literature is the pervasiveness of stories that use other genres such as fantasy, action or horror to mask a predictable plot, fill a story with bad dialogue or unlikeable characters that are two-dimensional and make stupid, terrible decisions. I’ve seen so many of those and they seem to be marketed at just one demographic, more of a product like soap or cheese than words that mean anything. And they invariably end up being turned into some Hollywood schlock that stars the same A-listers that starred in the previous hit YA movie adaptation, or maybe some new up-and-coming actors who have an uncanny physical resemblance to the same A-listers that starred in the previous hit YA movie adaption. Does this make me sound like I really hate YA lit and their subsequent constant movie adaptations? That’s okay, because I do. Well, the bad shit, at least.

Moving on.

Lockwood & Co. – The Screaming Staircase is a book by Jonathan Stroud. I’m familiar with his Bartimaeus trilogy, having enjoyed it when I was in middle school and also having read the prequel novel that came out when I was about thirteen or fourteen. He’s a decent writer, around the same level as Rick Riordan. If he’d been published in the 1990’s he probably would have joined the ranks of someone like R.L. Stine. As of yet, I’m unfamiliar with his newer stuff which is not really a bad thing, I think. Let’s take a look at the front cover of the book.

The first thing that’s immediately noticeable apart from the giant silver text that reads ‘Lockwood & Co.’ is the young man holding a sword and attempting to look threateningly at the reader. Or maybe he’s smoldering. Given the antics of previous YA heroes, I’m not sure. Anyway, it’s obvious that this guy here is the hero of the novel and the eponymous Lockwood. He’s a pretty generic looking tall white teenager with dark hair who’s rather smartly dressed (I like coats and he’s wearing quite a nice one). I have one issue, though. The hand that’s not holding the sword appears to only have three fingers, which is really bothering me. It may just be the way the cover art was made, which to me is kind of sloppy. There’s really nothing too special looking about him. I’m sure Stroud is going to tell me all through the book about how cool/attractive/smart he is, so we’ll wait until then. Hilariously enough, at the bottom right corner of the book is a glowing review of the book from none other than Rick Riordan – ‘Stroud is a genius’, he says. This may be nothing other than two authors writing in the same genre just being friendly with one another, but something about it just rubs me the wrong way. It feels foreboding, like a sign or a warning that the waters ahead will not be at all smooth sailing.

Before I have a heart attack, let’s turn to the back and read the blurb, shall we?

The dead are back to haunt the living.

Ooh. Sounds interesting. But familiar. You’ve managed to pique my attention with that.

Evil spirits crowd the streets after dark.

You mean to say that there are so many evil spirits around nowadays that they can fill the streets after the sun has gone down? That’s a lot of evil spirits! How has civilisation not collapsed through the sheer anarchy and madness that would undoubtedly follow such an insurgence?

With ghostly criminal cases on the rise, psychic investigations agents are in demand as never before.

I see. So this book takes place in a parallel universe where this kind of thing is normal. Ah. Well, that would explain why people are still sane and civilisation hasn’t collapsed.

The smallest, most ramshackle – but arguably the best – of these agencies is Lockwood & Co.

Oh dear God, is this going to be a mashup of a Speshul Snowflake story and an Underdog story? It better not be either of those things. Please. Don’t do it.

Meet the dashing,

FUCK.

scatty

Uh…

Anthony Lockwood; his loyal, book-loving deputy George Cubbins;

You know that Cubbins is comic relief. You just know it. And that’s what makes this blurb so insidious. Characterisation is just thrust into a dark corner and beaten with sticks because why make well-written characters that require development when you can just slap two adjectives on them and give them a funny name? What’s worse, he’s probably fat, too. Just to find more things for the audience to try and mentally laugh at him for. God.

and their newest agent, brave Lucy Carlyle.

Calling it now, this will be the shameless reader-insert/shipping setup female character. Fucking calling it now. This is what’s gonna happen.

Together they must use their Talents

FUCKING RANDOM CAPITALISATION TOO ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME

to keep you – and themselves – alive…

And let’s end with an ellipsis, because suspense, right? God, this book is gonna be another doozy. Urgh.

Okay, that was just the outside of the book. The next time, we will delve into the first chapter. Just like my last sporking, we’ll do one chapter per article. The book’s got around 420 pages worth of actual writing (let’s hope that’s true, for the love of God let’s hope that’s true) and they’re divided up into five parts.

I don’t know how many chapters are in each part but I suppose we’ll have to find out. I’ll see you guys next time when we find out what the fuck Stroud’s talking about with his overly vague section titles.

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Comment

  1. Juracan on 18 January 2017, 11:17 said:

    Hilariously enough, at the bottom right corner of the book is a glowing review of the book from none other than Rick Riordan – ‘Stroud is a genius’, he says.

    If there’s a preteen/YA book they’re trying to market to the masses, they get Rick Riordan to review it and put the quote on the cover.

    Funny enough, it used to be Eoin Colfer they did that with…

  2. Potatoman on 18 January 2017, 22:08 said:

    Funny enough, it used to be Eoin Colfer they did that with…

    I remember reading his stuff! I feel like this book will be a trip through memory lane for a lot of people. A terrifying trip, with lots of bad driving and no bathroom breaks, but a nostalgic one nonetheless. Let’s see how it goes!

  3. Resistance on 19 January 2017, 11:23 said:

    I loved the Bartimaeus triology too when I was younger, so I’m saddened that it seems Stroud didn’t quite come through on this one.

    Excited for the spork though.

  4. Dragonstorm on 19 January 2017, 23:14 said:

    I was surprised to see this book being sporked. I’ve read and loved this series, enjoying it even more than I did the Bartimaeus books. (Nathaniel, aside from a few awesome moments, irritated me. As did the Solomon thing. Moving on.)

    I get your reservations. But: (Warning for minor spoilers although if you’re reading a sporking, I suspect you don’t mind them.)

    - Ah, George. Chubby, yes. Comic relief, sometimes. Absolutely critical to their survival? Surprisingly insightful? Yes and yes.

    - Lockwood does start out looking like the brooding!mysterious!love interest. Right up until he starts hiding his plans, that is – and the others call him on it. Until Lucy realizes that his charisma is appealing, but that he’s incapable of sustaining a connection like that long term. Until his flaws start showing and the narrative doesn’t try to pretend they aren’t there.

    - Then there’s the skull. I don’t think you’ve met the skull yet, but you will. The skull is many things. Stereotypical is not one of them.

    Is this an underdog story? Yes. Are our heroes “special?” Maybe. That’s yet to be 100% determined if we’re defining special as “abnormally gifted.” What I love about this series, though, is the subversions that come, especially later on. The stereotypical rival gains emotional sympathy and becomes a hero . . . without having to start worshipping the other heroes. Lockwood pushes people away without meaning to. The pretty girl that would be the popular one in a high school movie gains depth. The talking skull is one of the most complex characters instead of a plot device.

    And I can never, ever read the climax to one of these books at night without checking the shadows when I’m done.

  5. TMary on 20 January 2017, 00:14 said:

    Yay, you’re still here, Potatoman! I am eagerly waiting to see what comes of this. I remember thinking the Bartimaeus books were funny, but not really my style, so I’m interested to see where this goes.

    Side question: Is Evermore doomed to be forever unfinished, or are you planning on picking it up again some day? Or is that just the way it ends, because if it does…that’s the worst way of ending a book I’ve ever seen.

  6. Potatoman on 20 January 2017, 05:41 said:

    Absolutely critical to their survival? Surprisingly insightful? Yes and yes.

    Right up until he starts hiding his plans, that is – and the others call him on it. Until Lucy realizes that his charisma is appealing, but that he’s incapable of sustaining a connection like that long term. Until his flaws start showing and the narrative doesn’t try to pretend they aren’t there.

    The stereotypical rival gains emotional sympathy and becomes a hero . . . without having to start worshipping the other heroes. Lockwood pushes people away without meaning to. The pretty girl that would be the popular one in a high school movie gains depth. The talking skull is one of the most complex characters instead of a plot device.

    Brilliant! This will make for interesting reading. I honestly don’t go into every spork/review hating everything and refusing to listen to what people say are good points of the book. I’m really happy you let me know about all these things because now I will be looking out for them and seeing if Stroud did indeed execute them as well as you have said he has.

    Yay, you’re still here, Potatoman!

    Hi! <3

    Side question: Is Evermore doomed to be forever unfinished, or are you planning on picking it up again some day?

    Evermore isn’t done! I dropped it because of the workload I had through year 11 and 12, and because I was working through some tough life decisions that affected me pretty strongly back then. I didn’t really have time to be snarky at a book that was pretty much just low hanging fruit. But one day I will pick it back up. I’m glad you enjoyed the spork, though. That’s really encouraging! :D

  7. TMary on 20 January 2017, 13:17 said:

    Oh great, I’m glad to hear it! :D I totally understand why you dropped it. I look forward to seeing you come back with it, whenever you’re done. And you’re welcome!

  8. Epke on 24 January 2017, 12:23 said:

    Ah, Stroud, the author of my teens. I loved this book, so I was surprised I saw the “spork” tag next to it…

    He’s a decent writer, around the same level as Rick Riordan.

    I like you, Potatoman, but that’s insult to Stroud. At least he doesn’t shamelessly ruin mythology to insert his “cool” characters and can actually write a genuine plot and characters.

    Let’s take a look at the front cover of the book.

    Let’s not judge a book by its cover, mkay.

    I’m sure Stroud is going to tell me all through the book about how cool/attractive/smart he is,

    If you’ve read the Bartimaeus sequence like you say, you should know by now that that is not how he writes. Also, Lockwood is arguably NOT the protagonist.

    You know that Cubbins is comic relief. You just know it. And that’s what makes this blurb so insidious.

    Not really – George is very much the brains of the agency, with no little importance to the story.

    and give them a funny name? What’s worse, he’s probably fat, too. Just to find more things for the audience to try and mentally laugh at him for. God.

    Cubbins isn’t a funny name though. Unusual? Yes, given that it seems to be Gaelic in origin and still quite close to it, but other than that? Not so much.

    and their newest agent, brave Lucy Carlyle.
    Calling it now, this will be the shameless reader-insert/shipping setup female character. Fucking calling it now. This is what’s gonna happen.

    Sigh. No, she is not. I fear repetition here, but that’s not how he writes – and Lucy most certainly isn’t a self-insert or ship setup.

    FUCKING RANDOM CAPITALISATION TOO ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME

    Proper noun in the book: it means the ability to interact – somehow – with the dead. Sight, touch, smell, memories etc.

    Oh, and spoilers.

  9. @Epke on 25 January 2017, 11:44 said:

    You like Lockwood and Co. Your comment is full of incoherent rambling. Do I sense a connection?

  10. Eman on 25 January 2017, 11:58 said:

    Comparing Stroud to Riordan is kind of insulting to Riordan, considering that Riordan actually is competent at writing. And he doesn’t use rapiers for slashing the way Stroud does.(If I remember correctly, there are slashing rapiers in Lockwood and Co.)

  11. Juracan on 25 January 2017, 14:49 said:

    …can we not make this into a pissing contest of Stroud vs. Riordan? If you really want, I have an article on Riordan on the way and we can put that there.

  12. Epke on 26 January 2017, 18:20 said:

    @Epke

    I assume you tried to make this comment for me? If incoherency is the topic, it seems to be your forte, not mine. At any rate, I’d love an article, Juracan.

  13. The Smith of Lie on 30 January 2017, 12:08 said:

    Look what the goat brought in. I return just in time for a new spork from you, that’s nice.

    I have one question though. Does this mean Evermore spork is dead? Not that I blame you, putting yourself through 15 chapters of that abomination must have been difficult enough.