Tag Archives: magic

Flex – Ferrett Steinmetz

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.

 


Nightwise- R. S. Belcher

I guess everything old can be made new.  I feel like I time travelled to the 80’s and 90’s goth club scene.  Parts of this reminded me distinctly of ‘Constantine’ and the movie 8 MM.  It had some moments that brought us into current times. iPads and smart phones are mentioned.  It had the economic cynicism of present day, but mostly its steeped in references of the past including a musical set list of the Violent Femmes, Rob Zombie and Depeche Mode.  This isn’t going to be for everyone but it will have a strong niche audience.  Belcher’s ‘Nightwise’ reminded me of an actual belch.  It’s potentially satisfying but leaves you with a gross aftertaste in your mouth …and maybe some acid reflux.  It will offend polite company and find it’s place with a grittier crowd.

Laytham is a fiftyish year old wizard, Wisdom, whatever, Laytham isn’t one for labels.  He describes himself as a ZZ Top look-alike who is still somewhat physically fit.  He’s a man-child who quit emotionally connecting with the world at 15.  Trauma pursues this West Virginian man, but a lot of it he welcomes into his life.  He is a badass with a reputation, and as he says himself, he will not bow or serve any God other than himself.  While I like stoic, older, curmudgeon characters I’m not a fan of braggers – or older men who frequent nightclubs and sleep with young women.  Laytham does that.  Grinner, one of the few people in the world who still helps Laytham, tells him explicitly to leave Maggie/Magdalena alone but he just can’t help himself.  Both he and Grinner agreed she didn’t need his special brand of darkness in her life.  He tells her that he has no business sleeping with her.  It’s too dangerous to be around him.  It isn’t a scheme to sleep with her blah,  blah, blah…magic is real, blah, blah, blah.  Big words for a man who kisses her an hour later and sleeps with her.  Now , Magdalena, has her own responsibility in making her choices, but this is the heart and soul of who Laytham is.  He likes to choose to make mistakes.  It’s not that he doesn’t know right from wrong, or light versus dark magic.  He states he is just too lazy to do the right thing.

Given the character analysis above, it comes as a shock that he chooses to risk himself and seek revenge for a colleague who is dying.  When he learns Baj has come to him to cash in a favor he takes the job.  He surprises everyone, including himself, and seeks out a very bad man.  It appears that there is a shred of loyalty left in his dark soul.  That might be a stretch, but it allows him to appear to be a good guy and court death.  To Laytham’s disbelief this causes a few characters in his life to rally behind his damned soul.  Even Laytham believes that they will end up regretting it and half heartedly tries to chase them away. Belcher takes his character through the city seeking out power and magic in nightclubs, S&M clubs, and the general seedier sides of the city.  He will find the bad man even the bad men despise.

You could say this is a coming of age tale.  A teenager grows up.  He’s just does it really late in life.  He’s the consummate late bloomer.  Laytham learns some lessons, learns a bit about who he really wants to be, and decides to make some changes…maybe.

The writing isn’t bad.  There is a lot thrown in to make it grittier.  There is some S&M content, but I have a feeling those in the BDSM scene might not really like how it is portrayed.  A lot of it seems to be for shock value, purely rooted in gaining power and/or dysfunction.  Smoking is used to help darken the world and give credence to it being filled with vice along with sex and drugs.

Truth be told this isn’t my general fare, although I do love ‘Constantine.’  It’s fun if you enjoy this kind of thing, however, it’s not mainstream fare.  Belcher worked very hard for it not to be.  It reminds me of the punk kid back in the day who would get pissed off if you knew of the obscure band they were talking about.  It is distinctly not cool if the general public knows about it.  It wants to appeal to misfits, people who want to be misfits, and the anti-establishment crowd. This book will have its niche following.

I don’t think I would have made it through the book if not for two things.  One, I received and agreed to read it in exchange for a review.  I feel I have an obligation to finish in those scenarios.  Two, the narrator was fantastic.  I received this from Audible in exchange for an honest review.  Beware, Bronson Pinchot speaks very slowly.  It fits the character, but I believe it will be to slow for some.   If you need to change the audio speed it doesn’t hurt anything.  He had a great West Virginian American accent.  His Australian was rough, but for the range of characters he narrated, he did a fantastic job.  His low booming voice for an ancient god and his interpretation of the devil was truly enjoyable.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in give it a chance.  The writing and range of magics is good.  The way financial disenfranchisement and the ‘Corporate Man’ is used is clever.  It’s not anything new, but Belcher did his research and the hodgepodge of magic he combined worked.  It fit Belcher’s Laytham, and the story.


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