The ravens are looking a bit sluggish. Tell Malcolm they need new batteries.

Friday, July 25

Art

Full Fathom Five My Monkey Lies

Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone
The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross

Two new additions to existing fantasy series by two of my favourite writers.  Not the best time for my Nexus 7 to suddenly die.

Full Fathom Five is the third in Max Gladstone's Craft sequence (Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise) which merges Vancean fantasy with the corporate thriller, so the key plot element shared by the three works is a sort of necromantic forensic conveyancing.  In this world, gods and souls are not just real, they are public utilities and currencies.

Our main characters on this outing are Kai, who constructs bespoke demigods for a fantasy-Hawaii-based spiritual mutual fund, and Izza, a street urchin with an unexplained hotline to Heaven.  When one of the idols managed by Kai's employer is endangered by the failure of a risky investment, Kai dives in (literally) with a last-minute leveraged buyout offer, and her life starts to unravel.

There follows a great deal of running around, getting hit on the head (literally, figuratively, or spiritually), unexpected betrayals, unexpected fidelities, and in the end triumph pulled from the jaws of a thing with lots and lots of teeth, which is pretty much the same formula as the previous two books.  

Which works just fine for me.

Full Fathom Five expands on the scope of the first two books, showing us that the events of the three stories are not just happening in a shared world, but follow closely on one another, and are perhaps directly related.  That leaves me looking eagerly forward to Gladstone's next entry in the series.  I'd be ready and willing to buy more standalone novels as long as he keeps writing, but if he can take the series to the next level, so much the better.

If you liked the first two books you won't want to miss this.  If you haven't read any of them, start with Three Parts Dead; while the books work in any order (so far) it's the easiest to get into.



The Rhesus Chart is the fifth in Charles Stross' Laundry Files  (The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue, The Fuller Memorandum, The Apocalypse Codex) that follows the trials of British civil servant Bob Howard, a former computer scientist corralled into working for a super-secret division of MI-6 tasked with defending the Universe.  The series is a cross between the classic Cold War spy thriller and Lovecraftian cosmic horror.  (Indeed, the recent Laundry Files novella Equoid involves Lovecraft himself.)

This time out....  Frankly, this time out is disappointing.  The previous novels involved adventure, danger, action and excitement, even if Bob didn't want any part of it.  This novel never leaves London, much less Earth; it never really gets beyond second gear.  Though the story is told in first person, a good half of the action takes place when Bob is not present, and is told by reconstruction or after-action report.

This applies even to the climactic scenes of the novel, which turns a Pyrrhic victory into merely a damp squib.  It's still a decent read, but given how well the series started out, this latest outing is so much less than it might have been.  I would not really recommend it either to a new or an established reader of the series; instead, pick up Equoid and the other short works.

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