Good take on a "realistic" superhero world, as seen through the eyes of a depressive detective, a non-superhero, who specializes in cases dealing with...moreGood take on a "realistic" superhero world, as seen through the eyes of a depressive detective, a non-superhero, who specializes in cases dealing with superheros. He takes the case when a superhero thinks their sidekick is jailing bad guys with somebody else.
Dark, sarcastic, and funny, though not lighthearted, Bob Moore: No Hero describes a world in which the antics of superheros regularly endanger and impoverish regular citizens. Bob is hired to find out why a superhero doctor's patients are disappearing. This would be almost impossible to review without spoilers, but I will say that I found the resolution satisfying. You will probably get a kick out of this if you like grim and gritty comics, or any dystopian stuff. I picked this novella up for free on Kindle, but there is a paperback edition.(less)
Jacob Portman witnesses his beloved grandfather's death at the hands of an eyeless three tongued monster. Because it's so horrific, he is promptly con...moreJacob Portman witnesses his beloved grandfather's death at the hands of an eyeless three tongued monster. Because it's so horrific, he is promptly convinced by everyone around him, including his therapist, that it couldn't have been real. But something's wrong, including the strange pictures his grandfather kept in a cigar box. Jacob keeps scratching at the mystery of his grandfather's life and death until he ends up visiting the orphanage that his father grew up in during world war 2, convincing his father that the birds on the little Welsh island would make a worthwhile ornithological study.
Once on the island, he finds the orphanage, but not in the place he expected. And he certainly didn't expect the pictures in his grandfather's cigar box to be of real people, exhibiting their weird abilities. And he didn't expect to get involved with this grandfather's lovely ex-girlfriend.
I picked this up on the recommendation of a co-worker. I really enjoyed this book for the voice and the world building. The description and cover kind of lead you to believe it will be a sort of steampunk X-Men. The author uses found antique photos throughout to illustrate actual characters, many of which have a cool, spooky quality to it. But as you can tell from the above, it's more dieselpunk. And though the randomness to the Peculiar children's abilities give a sort of superhero vibe, there are hints of deeper order that lead you along a trail to a much more urban fantasy style of milieu, with a fresh supernatural taxonomy. You have to love any series that calls it's creatures "peculiars."
The protagonists voice is cynical but optimistic, and unlike a lot of YA titles, uses language that teens would actually use. Not swearing in the manner of South Park (not that there's anything wrong with that), but swearing in the casually colorful way Holden Caufield might have if he'd actually sworn.
I can't think of anything I disliked without nitpicking, so I won't bother. Miss Peregrine was a short, fresh read with a likable protagonist and fun milieu.(less)
Briarpatch is about Darrin, who witnesses his girlfriend jumping off a bridge months after she left him with no explanation. He knows she left him for...moreBriarpatch is about Darrin, who witnesses his girlfriend jumping off a bridge months after she left him with no explanation. He knows she left him for a mysterious man named Ismael Plenty. Unconvinced that his girlfriend would kill herself, he uncovers a bizarre consipiracy, engineered by Ismael Plenty, and centering around himself.
Darrin and Ismael are Briarpatch babies, though Darrin is unaware of this. Of uncertain origin, the Briarpatch babies have the ability to step into a series of interconnected worlds of varying degrees of probablility: some with hospitals that include machines that heal you by taking better bodies from alternate versions of yourself, some where you might be attacked by werebears. Ismael wants to find the perfect world, the one where the light itself causes you to forget all need and be perfectly satisfied. Because, you see, Briarpatch babies are immortal. And immortals get bored, and despair, and want to move on to the afterlife. At least Ismael does.
To learn to see the Briarpatch, you generally need some sort of shock. Ismael has decided to drive Darrin to despair. He convinced Darrin's ex-girlfriend to kill herself (to get to the light of another world - a way denied to Immortals). He convinced Darrin's BFF to get Darrin fired. Then he staged an affair between Darrin's BFF and his new girlfriend. Nothing quite works out the way Ismael wants to, though. Darrin is made of sterner stuff.
Briarpatch is a really low key, personality driven fantasy. I liked it because of the themes. It contrasts delight in life with a yearning for transcendence to create what is essentially an anti-dualist fable. There may be something wonderful in the next world, but this is the one you have to kick around in until you get there. Darrin and some of the cohort he picks up on the way, including an ex-suicide haunted by Darrin's ex-girlfriend, and a man driving an automobile from an alternate detroit around the Briarpatch in order to find a version of his wife so that he can ask her if she commited suicide, or just sat too long in an enclosed garage, all have engaging voices. They are driven but not anxious, despairing but still curious about the world. They all are dealing with the question of why we continue to exist in the face of disapointment in small but pragmatic ways. It may turn out to be the great question of secular life, once we are free of disease and war. Darrin is not a passive man, but the loss of the love of his life has made him so, and learning to love his life gives him freedom again.
I also liked it because it's it pretty, surrealist book. The touristy trips into the Briarpatch are filled with glossy snapshots of irreality: vampire bars where you tip the bartender in blood, the Pontiac Wendigo itself, and city ruled by bees will feed the heads of people who like some Dali with their Drama.
It is very low key fantasy. It's got some sex and booze and poker in it. You can't advertise for life without the elements that make it fun. If you need swords with your sorcery, this may not be for you. If you're not up for a read with a little bit of meditation, save it for later. But if you want something pretty and meditative and earthy, this would be a good next for your reading list.(less)
Servant of the Underworld, by Aliette de Bodard, is a noir murder mystery set in Aztec governed Central America. Acatl, a priest of the god of the dea...moreServant of the Underworld, by Aliette de Bodard, is a noir murder mystery set in Aztec governed Central America. Acatl, a priest of the god of the dead, is tasked to investigate the abduction of a priestess whom his brother might have been having an affair with. The abduction was performed with bloody magic. So is the investigation: every time Acatl casts a spell, he must fuel it with the blood of whatever or whomever is nearby, often his own. The investigation leads to a plot amongst the priests of out of favor gods, who hope to end the current world and bring a new one into place. Bloodily, of course.
I liked the strong voice of Acatl. He is level headed, an-histrionic in the extreme, yet his personality really comes through in the conflicts with his family, who have problems with his deciding to be a low status priest instead of a high status warrior, and his desire to avoid the politics that are a part of his job. I also liked the fact that Servant of the Underworld used an uncommon set of myths for its background. The competing temples of the Aztec gods, and the various supernatural entities associated with, make for some tasty fantasy. Despite the ancient setting, the noir sensibility gives it a very modern feeling. My one problem is that Aztec names are a mouthful with a capital M, slowing down my already slow reading speed a bunch.(less)
Midnight Riot is by Ben Aaronovitch. It's fun boy crime fiction with an urban fantasy spin.
Peter Grant is a rookie cop who's looking at working in an...moreMidnight Riot is by Ben Aaronovitch. It's fun boy crime fiction with an urban fantasy spin.
Peter Grant is a rookie cop who's looking at working in an office when he sees a ghost near the scene of a crime. While trying to figure out what's going on, he's recruited to be the other member of the London police who investigates supernatural crime by Inspector Nightengale. In doing so, he also become Nightengale's apprentice. Yes, Nightengale is a wizard cop. The ghost he investigates leads to a series of horrific crimes where seemingly normal people commit outrageously brutal acts. The only common link is that the perpetrator's faces collapse immediately afterwards. The plot take a detour to negotiate a gang war between the water gods of the upper and lower Thames, and ends in psychic surgery on the ghostly archeological strata of London history after Peter learns who is causing the attacks.
The elements and world building of this supernatural London are cool and feel nicely multicultural: London's spirits are immigrants as much as London's inhabitants. Peter is engagingly hapless as a sceptically minded rookie plunged into a supernatural landscape, and the secondary characters, Nightengale, Molly: Nightengale's carnivorous maid, Peter's first crush and fellow rookie, Mama Thames, and Beverly Brook: the sexy river sprite whom he also becomes involved with, are all sharp and well realized and fun to watch. The eventual identity of the ghost-murderer is a weird but entertaining twist on the theme of "elemental evil," but the ending got a little muddled and hard to follow, with a few too many scenes. I will pick up the sequel, Moon Over Soho, just for the characters.(less)
White Cat, by Holly Black, opens with a Cassel Sharpe sleep walking onto the roof of his dorm. You find out fairly quickly that he murdered his girlfr...moreWhite Cat, by Holly Black, opens with a Cassel Sharpe sleep walking onto the roof of his dorm. You find out fairly quickly that he murdered his girlfriend three years ago, which doesn't make him a very sympathetic character. But he doesn't seem like the murdering type.
The setting for White Cat is an alternate world in which "curse workers," people who do magic, are an acknowledged minority in the world. Because curse work is legal in the US, several large crime families regulate the black market. If you are a curse worker, you are almost by definition a criminal. Cassel's whole family are curse workers. His Mom is in Jail for manipulating the emotions of rich men. His Grandfather is missing the fingers of his left hand, the hand that he kills people with. One older brother breaks bones with a touch. The other is a lawyer. As far as he knows, he's the only member of his family who isn't a worker of some kind.
From early in White Cat, you get the feeling that something weird is going on, and as Holly Black lays out the parameters of curse work, you begin to realize that there's lots of reasons why. Workers can control your luck, your emotions, your dreams, your memory, and even, in very rare cases, your shape. When Casse is kicked out of school for being a liability risk (almost walking off roofs will do that), he goes home to his family. Their weird indifference to his plight means he must ferret out what is going on by himself. And those dreams about a white cat.
Cassel isn't an unreliable narrator in that he can't be trusted... it's just that with so many stone cold manipulators around him, he can't trust himself. White Cat builds up into a great plot, smart but no so convoluted you lose track of it. A huge part of the tension comes from the fact that Cassel can't trust anyone, and a large part of the satisfaction is watching him have to take the risk of trusting.(less)
Hold me Closer Necromancer is about Sam LaCroix, slacker extrordinaire, who is confronted at the Burger Joint where he works by a seemingly mild but t...moreHold me Closer Necromancer is about Sam LaCroix, slacker extrordinaire, who is confronted at the Burger Joint where he works by a seemingly mild but terrifying man who calmly threatens him with bodily harm. In rapid succesion, Sam is attacked by a werewolf in the parking lot, and his best friend's head is sent to him in a box, to verbally deliver an ultimatum. Sam finds out he's a necromancer, which his witch mother tried to hide from him. But really, there's only supposed to be one Necromancer in Seattle. Sam is not it.
When Douglas, who is it, finds out about Sam, he begins to stalk him. Laura, my Bro-Worker, who is the Greatest Living Young Adult Librarian Alive (TM), was talking to me over lunch. She's all, "Like, I'm reading this great book, about this kid who finds out he's a Necromancer (Meh, I think), and who's being hunted by this crazy, more powerful necromancer (Meh, I think), so, GET THIS, the older Necromancer sends the kid his best friend's head in a box, still talking to him, as a warning." And I was like, "HOLY CRAP! DUDE, you had me a talking head in a box."
I did not hurt that the title is a play on an Elton John song title.A big part of the fun of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is not that there'a crazy bad guy (TM). It's that he's so brutally, practically dismissive of other people's right to remain intact and alive. His only option is the nuclear option, but he does it so calmly. I really liked Sam's voice. He's casual, sharp, and self effacing, very Gen X, as filtered through Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I also liked that the setting is kitchen sink urban fantasy world, with vampires, faeries, and satyrs living under the noses of their irritating human neighbors. Anubis makes an appearence. It's always good to see Anubis. I personally like kitchen sink Urban Fantasy. Vampire Urban Fantasy always feels a little like the whole world is populated by Emo supermodels.
I felt that the story moved pretty well despite having an oddly static plot. Sam spends the first half of the book trying to find out what the hell is going on, asking his mom, his absentee dad's new family, really, anyone he can reach who might have any kind of handle on what's going on. Then he gets kidnapped and spends the rest of the novel in a cage with a sexy werewolf chick. There were a bunch of plot elements that didn't make a ton of sense, and some lazy plotting: after dealing with the Necromancer, by supernatural law Sam get's all the old Necromancer's Stuff. That was kind of Mary Sue. However, the personalities carried the book: His Mom, a witch afraid of her son's power to control the dead, enough to stick his power in a magical straight jacket. The sexy half werewolf half fey, born to lead her pack and now a crazy Necromaner's guinea pig, who needs to get Sam to butch up and find his Necromancer in time to save both of them. And Sam's loyal slacker buddies. Or the various parts of them. The cast of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer carried the plot.(less)
I started out kind of lukewarm on this one, but I think the secondary characters are the bomb, so I warmed up quick. A noire urban fantasy for those w...moreI started out kind of lukewarm on this one, but I think the secondary characters are the bomb, so I warmed up quick. A noire urban fantasy for those what don't mind violence. My only caveat to that is that human trafficking is a strong theme in the plot.
In the near future, the dead have risen. Hauntings are common occurrences, even to the point that ghosts haunt their own corpse (as homeless zombies) or the bodies of animals, that they twist to resemble their former human forms (loup garous). Felix Castor is an exorcist for hire. Although he has been "retired" for a year and a half after botching an exorcism that left his best friend possessed by hell-kin, he need cash and finally takes a job exorcising a ghost from a London archive. He has a hard time with the case at first, and the longer he's on it, the more he suspects he needs to solve the murder that created the ghost before he exorcises her...
This was huge fun. The secondary characters, especially the bad guys, are just fun to watch move around the page. The opening scene didn't hook me in, but it was well worth waiting for the plot to get going. Not alot of romance, for them what likes romance in their urban fantasy. But for them what doesn't like glamor vamps, the millieu is very subdued (so far, first book), with strong human protagonists. There are no signs of fey courts or werewolf packs yet, just ghosts in various funky forms.(less)
Interesting beginning to a fantasy graphic novel about literature and writers, featuring a messianic Harry Potter pastiche come to life in the mundane...moreInteresting beginning to a fantasy graphic novel about literature and writers, featuring a messianic Harry Potter pastiche come to life in the mundane world, and using Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling as characters in one of the issues. Good for fans of Sandman, Lucifer (another Carey work), and Fables. Art is beautiful and crisp.(less)
Reads like Harry Potter meets Twilight, a little more cosmopolitan than Harry Potter, not quite as Emo as Twilight (I'm guessing). Young protagonists....moreReads like Harry Potter meets Twilight, a little more cosmopolitan than Harry Potter, not quite as Emo as Twilight (I'm guessing). Young protagonists. I had fun with it. I like Urban Fantasy with lots of interacting paranormal factions. A good way to pass some time.(less)
I should have loved Stolen, by Kelly Armstrong. The basic premise was great: evil software tycoon is collecting witches, werewolves, and half demons t...moreI should have loved Stolen, by Kelly Armstrong. The basic premise was great: evil software tycoon is collecting witches, werewolves, and half demons to study and hunt. Like Buffy meets Oz. But the characters never rose above stock and the plot was the antithesis of climactic.(less)