I have no complaints for this book and several compliments. There is action, humor, and it’s smart. Steinmetz created an alternate reality that includes both magic and the Affordable Health Care Act. …an interesting choice. His magic is ‘mancy. Power born from obsession and escapism. If what you love and respect above all else is rules and paperwork you become a Bureaucromancer like Paul Tsabo. A man who believes in the justice paperwork provides. Steinmetz main character is a skinny ex-cop who decided, by choice, to quit and work for an insurance company, Samaritan Mutual. His job has been to catch ‘Mancers. The people who distort the fabric of reality for their wishes, and it makes them dangerous because reality has to bend back. This process is called Flux. As the universe tries to make up for the imbalance you get earthquakes or storms raining frogs. … It’s quite the day when he becomes one. In ‘Flex,’ Paul is searching for a ‘Mancer by the name of Anathema. She uses her ‘mancy to create Flex, a drug, that gives mundanes the abilities of a ‘Mancer for limited time. They, however, have no idea how to handle their flux and it is creating havoc in Manhattan. It created a gas fire that burned Paul’s daughter, and the Bureaucromancer will do what he has to in order to stop her.
Paul is great character. He’s a divorced father, ex-cop, hero, and insurance claim investigator. He was disabled after his foot was crushed in his fight with ‘the Illustromancer.’ It led to stress in his marriage and escapism in work. He believed if he couldn’t fix his own problems at least he could work on his claims and fix other people’s. The focus and passion for it led to his work becoming ‘mancy. This kind-hearted and loyal man is an unlikely hero. Yes, he was a cop, but not because he had physical aptitude for it. Clothes hang on him like a hanger. It is his determination that got him on the police force and what drives him in his fight with Anathema. He’s a good man, and a good caring father, despite the fact he is not a perfect one. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. What drives Paul is his essential goodness. Steinmetz did well in his creation along with other characters like Valentine. She is described as a sunny, pudgy, goth girl. She’s pretty despite being fifty pounds overweight. She’s messy in how she lives, but when the flux from your ‘mancy takes all you care about away, how else would you live? She’s a solid and flawed character. She cares for Paul’s daughter with the ferocity of someone who hasn’t received the same. You start to see a pattern. Steinmetz characters are kind, well-intentioned, and realistic. They aren’t perfect. Life has dealt them some tragedy that instigated their motivations. There is also diversity without simplifying the characters into tokens. I highly recommend this book from character study alone.
I both read and listened to ‘Flex’ and enjoyed it both ways. I don’t think you can go wrong with either decision. Peter Brooke’s narration is delightful. My attention didn’t stray. Brooke’s interpretation of Steinmetz humor was perfect. It fit. The more I pay attention to a narrator’s ability to differentiate characters the more I am impressed with those who do it well. It isn’t easy and Brooke is successful. When I got interrupted and neglected to pause ‘Flex’ I knew exactly who was speaking in the story. I wasn’t lost. I went back solely because I didn’t want to miss anything.
The second book is ‘Flux’ and I can’t wait to read it. I’m forcing myself to wait a bit because I haven’t fallen in love this way with a book since Wesley Chu’s Tao series. This isn’t to say I haven’t loved and enjoyed other books/series. I most certainly have. The attachment for it comes from the feeling I am left with after reading it. It’s one of goodness, one of hope in an admittedly imperfect world. I love the ridiculousness of the magic system because it feels right. Magic created out of obsession and escapism makes sense to me. Beurocromancy, Videogamemancy, etc. is so preposterous and harebrained it literally rings of reality. I buy Steinmetz alternate universe, and if you are in the proper mood I am betting you will too. If you are looking for something beautiful or grim this isn’t it, however, if you like some humor and bizarre reality in your magic system/fantasy pick this up.