The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Winter Good Reads Part 2: Urban/Modern Fantasy Titles


Review of Paradigms Lost by Ryk E. Spoor (Baen, Nov 15, 2014)

This is an urban fantasy set in an alternate 1999-2001. This is a vastly expanded and revised volume which contains the contents of the story entitled “Digital Knight”. Jason Wood is an expert in information searches, image processing and enhancement, pattern matching and data forensics. Some of his contracts are with law enforcement.

A dead contact on his doorstep sends Jason and his girlfriend Sylvie into an adventure involving people who don’t appear on film, werewolves (including an entire town full of them), court appearances relating to werewolf prostitution, and parties which lead to murder. This story is formatted as a murder mystery but actually Jason ends up investigating multiple crimes which are all linked together by werewolf involvement.

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As the existence of werewolves being public knowledge is relatively new, the laws written with only humans in mind have not been adapted to include how they apply to werewolves. As some werewolves kill humans in order to gain power, and they are very difficult to kill or arrest, a new approach is needed.

Computer geek Jason is an interesting character and the members of his supporting cast add depth to his world. It is sort of strange seeing “high-tech” gear which is now either commonplace or outdated, but adding werewolves and other supernatural creatures to the world of the 2000s definitely would make them more interesting. For those of us who lived through all the security changes brought about by the millennium and the terrorist attacks of 2001, all the people trying to secure against an internal threat as opposed to an external one was quite amusing and allows you to reflect back on how stupidly short-sighted some government entities can be.

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Review of Spell Blind: Case Files of Justis Fearsson by David B. Coe (Baen, Jan 6, 2015)

David B. Coe’s new series is an urban fantasy detective series set in a modern day Phoenix, Arizona where magic exists but most people don’t believe in it. Magic users keep their abilities a secret from most of society. Weremystes hide during the full moon because it changes them, ramping up their magical abilities while damping down their sanity.

Justis (Jay) used to be a Phoenix police detective like his father who is now retired, but weremystes aren’t accepted by most parts of society. No workplaces have rules about missing work on the days the moon is full because your magic goes off the scale and your sanity goes out the window. Only his ex-partner Kona Shaw knows he is a weremyste. Justis makes a living as a private investigator now. He’s on a case involving a runaway teenager who is the daughter of a well-known businessman and evidence suggests that drug use may have been involved. His search for the missing girl leads him to a bigger problem when several weremystes are magically attacked by an unknown assailant. He meets Billie Castle, a blogger covering the case and there is mutual attraction, but Justis’ weremyste nature makes for a complicated love life.

This is a fast paced urban fantasy mystery with murder, magic, family issues and romantic entanglements. As we see more mysteries in future volumes it will be interesting to see where Justis’ only slightly functional social skills lead to in the family and romance department. The characters and plot are both interesting and the magical part of the modern setting makes it different from other series out there. An excellent read for urban fantasy fans!

Interview with David B. Coe at MarsCon

Exploding Spaceship: Was the research for this modern series a good change from the historical settings you have used in the past?

David B. Coe: Yes, it was a welcome change. Having to do extensive research for a new setting is a challenge, but having different types of settings for my series make it more interesting. (Note: Coe writes historical urban fantasy as D.B. Jackson)

ES: “Case Files” means this is going to be a series?

DBC: Yes.

ES: When will we see the next volume?

DBC: August or September.

ES: What is the next volume called?

DBC: His Father’s Eyes.

ES: So we will see more of Justis’ dad in the next volume?

DBC: Yes, quite a bit more.

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 Review of The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy (Curiosity Quills Press, January 12, 2015)

The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy (Curiosity Quills Press, January 12, 2015)

This is a modern fantasy story centered around psychic Mira Tejedor as she uses her talents to help a comatose 13-year-old boy. She has previously helped find other people with her talents but never someone lost inside their own head as Anthony is.

Mira’s adventures in Anthony’s head are pretty straightforward fantasy, although they are contained within an unusual framework. The Pictures at An Exhibition (the artworks by Viktor Hartmann that inspired Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky) are all present as physical paintings or representations, with the musical components present as background sound, each movement from the suite being a different part of his psyche.

The book is very well written with good flow, which was especially important with the two vastly different settings. Darin Kennedy’s medical knowledge is obvious from the scenes in a medical setting and the times when a character has a mishap which requires attention. Mira and her psychic skills are an interesting juxtaposition on a modern world. It will be interesting to see if her continued success will impact her larger world.

The story is structured like a mystery; with one of the places Mira gets clues being Anthony’s mind, the settings and characters in the scenes of the fantasy adventure in Anthony’s head give clues to Mira. All the characters in both the real world and in Anthony’s fantasy adventure are well developed, although the fantasy adventure ones really are meant to all add up to being the reader’s picture of Anthony’s character since in the real world he rarely moves and doesn’t communicate.

This is an exceptional first novel, well written, well plotted, with a very imaginative main character and background. The dream-like scenes in Anthony’s mind remind you of the dark fairy-tales and myths upon which they are based. Perhaps we’ll get further adventures of Mira and get to see her relationship with Thomas grow. Plus the love/hate relationship with the police detective could also prove interesting. This is a good read for both mystery lovers and fantasy readers as long as they don’t mind a little mixed genre.

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Review of Undercity (Baen, Dec 2, 2014 ) by Catherine Asaro

This is the first volume of a new series set in Asaro’s Skolian Empire Universe. The main character is Bhaajan, a former military officer who is now a private investigator. Bhaajan had been working in Selei City on Parthonia, the capital of the Skolian Imperialate, but a client paid a large sum of money for her to take a case on the planet Raylican in the City of Cries where she had grown up. She is surprised to discover that her employer is not just a wealthy person, but the Majda Matriarch who is also one of the Joint Commanders in charge of the Skolian military.

We get to see the culture of the lower classes on Raylicon revealed in great detail in this volume. The upper classes still keep their males hidden to non-family but the lower classes have more equality of the sexes.

Bhaajan uses her childhood connections to investigate the undercity and find a runaway prince, but along the way she stumbles onto a bigger plot that could change the balance of power in the entire Imperialate. She becomes a much more well-rounded character as we discover her past, including friends and enemies. These people from the past bring an emotional response from Bhaajan and cause her to step up her game.

The book is plotted like a private investigator case story but has special ops elements as well as some moments of non-violent demonstration. The ending of the book leaves Bhaajan still in the City of Cries and in a situation good for many more adventures. Compared to previous Skolian Empire novels this one has a straighter plot and lower class characters, which resulted in a more enjoyable read. The Empire is more complete culturally now that we are seeing the parts of society never seen in previous novels.

This is a great reading choice for lovers of science fiction adventure and a good starting point if you haven’t read any of Asaro’s other volumes. Also, if you tried her work previously and were not a fan, we would suggest giving her another try with this volume because the pace has picked up and the tone is different. This is now our favorite volume and we have been reading her stuff since she sold us a copy of Primary Inversion from a little table in a Waldenbooks in 1995!

Your Humble Reviewers hope to see more volumes of this series soon!

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2 Responses to The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Winter Good Reads Part 2: Urban/Modern Fantasy Titles

  1. Pingback: February newsletter: Monica Byrne, Zine Machine, Oak City Comics Show, Wake County Library’s “Let’s Talk Sci-Fi” series, James Maxey named Piedmont Laureate, Read Across Durham, new books, news, and more | Bull Spec

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