Friday, November 29, 2013

What a fine broth....

So, I could swear I read A. Lee Martinez's Gil's All Fright Diner, but I may not have. I did, however, read A. Lee Martinez's Too Many Curses, which wound up being very silly and occasionally poignant.

Our Heroine, Nessy, devotes her life to cleaning and organizing the evil wizard Margle's castle. He pays her in insults and a cot. Until the day he brings home an egg that hatches a One Eyed, one horned purple people eater. Which eats Margle them imprints on Nessy. Nessy, being a kobald, may or may not be the best mommy for a One Eyed, One Horned Purple People Eater, particulalry not in a castle filled with people cursed by her master.

Nessy, thankfully, is a very practical sort, She finds ways to scrape 30 minutes a day out of her busy life of polishing and alphabetizing and reading to the monster under her bed to study magic to reverse the multiple curses laid upon the inhabitants of the castle. (My favorite is the poor owl who was also cursed to speak in alliteration.)

Anyway, most of the plot revolves around The Door That Should Not Be Opened (which tends to wander the castle following Margle's untimely demise), a Demon queen trapped in the form of 10 million fireflies, and an evil wizardess looking to destroy the castle.

What we ultimately find is a message about how what we are cursed with is less important than what we are on the inside. Thus an Excalibur-wielding fruit bat.

It's geared towards a younger audience, but it remains a fun read.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ask not for whom the bell tolls...

We're coming full circle here at James's Genre Books, as I'm returning to the series that started this blog off.

One of the biggest issues with any series fiction is keeping things fresh. After all, if a relatively weak character spends every book going up against long odds and coming out unscathed, it kills any sense of suspense. How different authors get around this tends to color the series, from making the main narrator a god like necromancer schtupping every werecreature that moves to treating most of the lead's romantic interests like Bond girls.

Here, in Seanan McGuire's Chimes at Midnight, we see a more interesting trend. The Scooby Gang. Our Heroine, October Daye, Dóchas sidhe changeling and narrator, starts off by trying to stop the influx of Goblin Fruit and winds up involved in The Mists's revolution. Along the way, we meet new friends and expand on old ones.

Goblin fruit, originally grown only in one of the closed plains of existence, is instantly addictive to changelings, and exceptionally fatal for mortals. (It is for changelings as well. Just takes longer.) There's a rather large influx of the stuff on the Fae haunted streets of San Francisco,  and October and her crew are trying to take it out before it breaks the veil that hides Fairie from the mortal realm. Sadly, as October finds out, the Queen in the Mists is behind the current influx of the stuff. And in finding this out, October is given a 3 day notice of eviction and exile.

Which leads to seeking out The Sea Witch (one of Maeve's brood, and a First One, kind of the Antediluvians of the fay world) , who imparts on October knowledge that the Queen is not who she says she is. And thus is the major thrust of the plot, finding the real children of Gilad Windermere and getting them on the throne.

We get to meet Mags, the flighty librarian of The Library of Stars, who was one of my favorite characters in the novel. We also meet Madden, Cu Sidhe (dog fairy), who's guarding Anwen and her brother, in hiding from the usurper Queen in the Mists. (Madden is quite gay, and tends to steal the few scenes he shows up in.) Dianda, Queen of Saltmist, comes back for the revolution, and winds up providing some of the best scenes in the book, on the only way a mermaid kicking the crap out of guards can. That she swears like a proverbial sailor (not quite 4 letter words, but the intent is much the same) helps.

And, much like the authors note at the beginning promises, the end of this one and the short story tacked in the end of the novel set the stage for a much larger conflict to spread out over several novels. And that is a voyage I look forward to joining.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

We're short an insane man in a blue box.

I'm really at a loss on how to explain London Falling by Paul Cornell. It's got quite a bit in common with Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, only much darker. Well, maybe not darker, just...grittier. And lacking in the humor inherent in Gaiman.

We start with two undercover cops, Sefton and Costain, on the last night of an 4 year long sting trying to nick Rob Toshack, sort of the Godfather of London. The two UCs are supervised by Quill, who's suspicious of Costain, since Costain seems to be breaking the first rule of undercover and doing the drugs he's "selling". And processing information on the case in the background is Ross, who we find out is Toshack's niece.

They do manage to arrest Toshack, not long after Costain (while wearing a recording device), manages to out himself and Sefton as UCs. Sefton, in the meantime thinks Costain has it out for him because Sefton is gay. Sefton, in the meantime, goes out of his way to get Costain in trouble as everyone gets rounded up.

Toshack goes quietly, and confesses to everything while being interrogated by Quill. At which point Toshack explodes into a big bloody mess. For no apparent reason.

This sets up thr thrust of the book, wherein the four principles investigate a soil sample found at one of the residences Toshack spent the night before the arrest visiting, only to be gifted with "The Sight". Which manifests itself in such ways as Quill finding his best buddy is being tormented by his Dad's ghost.

As Operation Toto proceeds (and the 4 coppers try to deal with the new gift), we find the chief suspect in Toshack's death is one Mora Losley, who had a season ticket next to Toshack at the West Ham Irons football team. (Football in the case meaning soccer. Since Europeans and Africans have no idea what real football is. Amurika! Heck yeah!) Mora, they figure out, seems to be in the habit of using the bloody explosion trick on anyone who scores a hat trick on her beloved Irons. Of course, they also find out the way to make people explode in blood is to boil three children alive. (Mora really needed a gingerbread house. Of course, given her familiar, she could just have easily lived in a hut dancing on chicken legs.)

As the story progresses, we get insight into all four of our protagonists and their various relationships, and, thanks to the aforementioned familiar, we also get to know Mora's history. Which makes her much more of a sympathetic character. Well, other than that whole boiling children in a big pot to kill people who score three points against a team playing a sport no one cares about.

In this, the first book of what will probably become a series (I say that, since the extradimensional entity Mora works for remains quite enigmatic through the end), we get several themes in what forms the metaphysics of Cornell's world building. Among other things, none of the wonderful abilities work outside London, and one of the running issues is what actual borders London has. Pretty sure the definition used in this is the outerbelt that forms the sigil for the Black hand of Mu, or whatever that joke was in Good Omens. What's true is less important than what's remembered when it comes to the setting.

Also, there is a very strong thread of isolation wrapped around almost every character in the novel.  And interestingly, it's the characters' isolation that eventually binds them together. Even if they do more or less form a standard Dungeons & Dragons adventure group in terms of roles within their cell.

I look forward to whatever followup Cornell eventually releases.