Excellent albeit bizarre and often disturbing poems by a chap that used to do open mike poetry readings I often attended back when the world was muchExcellent albeit bizarre and often disturbing poems by a chap that used to do open mike poetry readings I often attended back when the world was much younger....more
(I'll avoid any major spoilers, but don't make any promises regarding spoiling developments of mood or the broad plot outlines that can be found in th(I'll avoid any major spoilers, but don't make any promises regarding spoiling developments of mood or the broad plot outlines that can be found in the publisher's blurb. I will say that when the publisher's blurb says "vampires", they're wrong. There is no vampire in this story. There is something worse.)
OK, this is a very strange book.
It starts off mildly strange: it is clearly a hard-ass, tough-as-nails, police procedural (if you don't know the sub-genre, see wikipedia). The protagonist is a cliché -- a big brute, twice divorced, confused about where his life is going, firmly chained to his job while recognizing that it's shoving him towards Dysfunction Junction™. But he really digs the power and stimulation of morally ambiguous situations. Still, not a happy camper.
Then it gets really strange. Some of the cases have paradoxical twists, and he's getting involved in a weird way with a very unusual woman.
Then it gets really, really strange.
The publisher's blurb tells us this is a dark urban vampire story, but it isn't. There's something much stranger here, and it is very well done -- but I can't say anymore without spoiling it. Even at the end it isn't quite clear whether this falls onto the fantasy or scifi side of the shelf, but it definitely doesn't belong with the "normal" books. A lot of the language and mood is similar to James Ellroy, but updated to contemporary society.
But the adult themes here go way beyond urban violence. There's sex, and an important aspect of the book involves some pretty crazy stuff. You're heading towards an intersection of horror, gender-bending sadomasochism, and what would be a psychotic breakdown — except that it is really happening. And all of that is central to the story.
This book is enough of an innovation that I'm tempted to give it the whole five stars. But there are two gotchas:
First, it's hard to tell where the book is going for a long while, and everything seems just a bit less intense than expected, and the plot feels like it is wandering and wavering in its commitment. It turns out that Saknussemm is building towards something, and he is eventually going someplace really radical, and apparently felt it was necessary to really solidify his set before he started to tear it down. And this might have been necessary for such an unusual book, but it still weakens the attraction.
Second, this also feels like a dead end. If this really expands into a new sub-genre, then he'll get kudos retrospectively (and I must admit that this might just be new to me; for all I know this book fits neatly into an established subgenre which I am unaware of). In any case, the market is a pretty narrow one: the gritty contemporary story won't be to the taste of those seeking fantasy kink (à laKushiel's Dart), while the fantasic part is likely to completely bewilder those Ellroy fans.
But that's who is likely to really enjoy this book: folks that enjoy a very creative contemporary urban kinky fantasy story.
P.S. I think Harlan Ellison would love this story. Definitely a Dangerous Vision.
Warning: this book contains adult subject matter, as if that weren't obvious...
Mary Roach brings her unabashed goofiness to the history of the scientific study of sex. She'll inform you of both the important and the trivial, and entertain you with yet more trivia, absurd footnotes, and her own charming albeit somewhat warped perspective — as well as a few inadvertent adventures she had while writing....more