Lightreads's Reviews > New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear
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's review
Dec 28, 08

bookshelves: fiction, mystery, historical, fantasy, collection, lgbt
Read in January, 2008

Sebastien de Ulloa is a vampire with a millennium and change to his name, a habit of caring about his food, and the desire to build a new life across the Atlantic in the colonies. Detective Crown Inspector Lady Abigail Irene Garrett is a forensic sorceress who has exiled herself from London for reasons that do not need exploring at this juncture. Together, they solve crime.

Oh, now, this? This I like.

Clever, tense, satisfying mosaic novel. It feels like the best of Bear’s writing: prose like perfectly toned musculature, and lacking the sometimes annoying self-consciousness of Blood and Iron. The alternate history turn of the twentieth century, where the imperial powers still grip the colonies and magic is science, is evocative and rich. It got me from the start with “Lucifugous.” I mean, it’s basically Murder on the Orient Express in a zeppelin, with a vampire. How can you not love that? And the stories layer up one by one, adding revolutionary politics, ill-considered love affairs, and always murder.

I could quibble that the mysteries are too obvious, but the mysteries really aren’t the point. It’s about the world, the interplay of people, the gentle tug of theme. My real complaint is the frankly shocking copyediting -- I spotted several dozen typos, and that was without looking. Not to mention other glaring errors, like a line of dialogue assigned to a character who wasn’t even there. Woops.

Stil fantastic, though.

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