Harris's Reviews > One-Eyed Jack

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear
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This made for an interesting book. It's not my favorite - hence the three stars instead of four or five - but it tied in a lot of my personal loves in fiction: urban fantasy, the mythology of American cities (in this case, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and the power of fiction and media.

In the case of One-Eyed Jack, cities are represented by Genius Loci - human personifications of the cities themselves, people who are consumed and then empowered by the cities. In Los Angeles, it's Angel, the would-be starlet who's drawn by the glitz and the glamour (spelling intentional) and is ultimately chewed up by it. In Las Vegas, it's One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King - figures tangentially tied by history.

But while they're powerful figures themselves - their strength commiserate with the ascendency of their particular city - they're not the most interesting or even the most influential figures either in the book or in the world. There is much more between Heaven and Earth - or Los Angeles and Las Vegas - than is dreamt of, etc. No, there are the ghosts of legends - the manifestations of actual *legends* rather than the people who inspired them - and the Media Ghosts, the physical embodiment of popular fictional characters.

Oh and Elvis. He's a vampire. Because reasons.

The media ghosts are the most interesting because to a certain extent they aren't aware that they're fictional and bound by genre conventions. While some of those conventions are helpful - they can't be killed, except under specific circumstances - they're still limited by them. And of course, there's the fact that they don't actually exist in the real world.

In a lot of ways, Bear is playing around simultaneously with Kim Newman's Anno Dracula conventions where pop-culture figures are hinted and referenced with a wink and a nod and Tim Powers' blend of mundane mysticism where the title of Fisher King can be won or lost in games of poker. One thing that made this interesting was trying to scratch the itch of "where do I know this person from?" when it came to the media ghosts. I pride myself in my vast and seemingly random mental repository of pop culture trivia and there were characters I couldn't quite identify. At least until the afterward which explained it all.

To be perfectly honest, I think Tim Powers did it better, but this is an entirely enjoyable romp.And playing "spot the reference" was fun, especially considering how time has marched on. The media ghost of The Widow could very well be an entirely different character than the one who was intended thanks to certain high-profile movies...

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 23, 2014 – Shelved

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