Wednesday 10 April 2013

The Wrong Goodbye

Chris F. Holm, 2012
(March 2013)

Now this is that pacey and fun urban fantasy I should have read. The sequel to Dead Harvest and it does everything you need it to. Angels, demons, magic, and a lovely pulpy, noir-ey vibe to the whole affair.

Still a few kinks to iron out: the exposition is better than last time but still tends towards the clunky; the prose is touch flowery and clichéd in places (‘mighty kapok trees’) and can occasionally jar you out of that darker, hard-boiled atmosphere – a few too many items writhe ‘like a living thing’ (which thing is unspecified; a tortoise perhaps, or maybe sphagnum moss); the pacing in the middle also slows noticeably, although that’s more a reflection on the sheer run-like-your-immortal-soul-depended-on-it speed of the rest of the book.

None of these are deal breakers. In fact they are, as is my wont, just quibbles. More often than not the author takes initially unpromising tropes and makes them pay off handsomely. The supporting cast are well drawn and my concerns about the fat comedy sidekick proved wholly unfounded as I really ended up caring about that character and his eventual fate. Plus any book that has a denizen of hell quoting The Big Lebowski with a straight face has to have something to recommend it.

On a related but different note, I’m increasingly impressed by Angry Robot as an enterprise. It’s an interesting business model: no hardbacks, everything gets released in paperback and electronic formats at the same time (disclaimer: I have less than no clue about how publishing really works). They also seem to have a fairly clear commitment to new authors at the fun and pulpy end of the SF/F spectrum.

More importantly than all this though is that of the seven or eight books of theirs I’ve read the only out-and-out dud has been Blackbirds. They’ve all had problems (some more than others, admittedly) but they’ve generally been interesting problems and that’s surely better than always playing it safe. This is something to be applauded, I think; while they’ve all been flawed, only one has been been bad and some have been very good indeed. There’s a seemingly genuine love for genre behind it all, and as more and more publishers panic about ebooks and piracy and retreat to lowest common denominator pap like Fifty Shades of Grey and biographies of celebrities not yet out of their twenties, that has to be a good thing. They also clearly know some fantastic cover artists.


  1. I'll have to get some more Angry Robot books. So far, I've only read Alliete de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood series (loved) and Jo Anderton's Debris (not bad). Unless Lavie Tidhar is Angry Robot as well? Losing track, so I guess I should pay their homepage a visit.

    1. I think some of his earlier steampunk stuff was done by them. Osama was Solaris, iirc.

      Zoo City was pretty good, though I read it before I started this little record so I've nothing to link to. I've actually just bought the first of Obsidian and Blood (forget the exact name), largely on the combined strength of your say-so and the fact she has quite an interesting web presence. Publishing 2.0 right there...