The bitter cold could not neutralise the café-emanations of fish and chips and vinegar, in which the road seemed steeped; but it served to enhance the seasonable contents of the shops—tangerines, nuts, fir trees, boxes of frilly crackers, row on row of trussed turkeys lit by a ghastly glare of fluorescence. Nature, in awe to Him, Had doffed her gaudy trim. Human nature was more than making up for climate deficiencies, and preparing to commemorate the event with its customary wallowing. Brett looked along a chain of windows, gaudy with red and silver, dabs of cotton wool, strings of fairy lights.
I want to read more by Mary Kelly. This was a fantastic find among the re-discovered BLCC titles, and I already look forward to the re-issue of The Spoilt Kill in May.
Brett Nightingale is investigating the death of Olga Karukhin, a Russian Princess, whose backstory alone is worth the read of this book. She was hard as nails. Who could have had any designs on her life? Or did anyone?
Without getting entangled in pointless chases of dead ends and red herrings, Kelly actually created a mystery that primarily relied on police interviews and the clues given to the reader during the investigation. And what made it better is that we had investigators who were utterly human. No superheroes here, but fully fleshed-out characters, who were able to hold conversations with other characters, even those of the other sex, without sounding like a stereotype.
It made the book for a thoroughly enjoyable read, except for one thing: the ending.
I am not entirely what happened at the ending, but we suddenly had characters kidnapped and bound and gagged and so much action - car chases and everything - that I had to check whether I was still reading the same book. Did it make sense? I suppose. But it didn't make for great reading.
This however is my only criticism of the book, and as mentioned above, I really want to read more by this author. Well done to Martin Edwards and the BLCC for unearthing Mary Kelly's work for today's readers.
The 25th century's most outrageous outlaw is back. When a heist goes terribly wrong, Slippery Jim DiGriz, thief, conman, is allowed to cut a deal with the Galactic League. In return for his life, he must rerieve an alien artifact from a crazed prison planet.
I’m glad that it has been a while since I last read a Stainless Steel Rat book. They are best consumed with considerable space between them, otherwise the sameness of the adventures and the humour becomes a drag.
But there are a few treats in store in each book. In this one, Slippery Jim must visit a prison planet to find a stolen archeological artifact, undercover as part of a band. Their first encounter with unwashed nomads sends up organized religion. Next, they encounter a society where men and women live separately, a comic rewrite of Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women's Country. Most of the men don’t even know that women exist, giving Harrison the chance to thumb his nose at the whole Iron John: A Book About Men concept and the men’s movement.
These are short and that’s a good thing. Especially as I have two more of them on the horizon for 2020!
Book number 341 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.
Lerris has settled down as a carpenter in Kyphros, where his wife, Krystal, is the sub-commander of the autarch's military forces. His fellow apprentice from Recluce, Tamra, now travels with the Gray Wizard Justen. Justen is over two hundred years old and is the wizard who destroyed the White Empire and the city of Fairhaven (as chronicled in The Order War), though at great cost. But the whole world is in turmoil, not only from friction between the island of Recluce and the continent of Candar, but now the distant Empire of Hamor has sent invading forces across the ocean, as they have twice in the historic past - and this time they mean to conquer the world. Gradually, but ever more deeply, Lerris is drawn back into action and forced to exercise and strengthen his magical powers to become the greatest wizard of all time - or see his whole world destroyed. The Death of Chaos is the culmination of the saga of Recluce thus far.
What can I say about this installment in the Saga of Recluce? These books are so, so similar in tone that they kind of blend together in my memory. In this volume, we return to the story of Lerris, whom we met in the first book. Lerris is apparently the strong, silent type and he is frustrating to his consort, Crystal, who wishes he would tell her more about what’s going on in his brain. Crystal is obviously young, as we older women care much less about this particular issue. Crystal also wishes that Lerris would quit going off and getting himself nearly killed in the fight against Chaos. This is a more legitimate concern, but I still found Crystal a bit hypocritical on this issue, as she and the Autarch would immediately summon Lerris whenever the going got the slightest bit tough! I try not to criticize people for doing what I ask them to do!
Whatever is wrong with Lerris, it runs in his family. They are gathered together to fight this war and basically grunt at each other and still refuse to tell each other useful details of how to use order and chaos without destroying everything. Lerris and Crystal end up with a magical link which lets each one know what’s going on with the other person. A fate worse than death, in my opinion! But they asked for it!
An awful lot of time is spent describing the incredibly repetitive meals that these people eat. Honestly, they eat so much cheese that they should be hideously constipated at all times. If an author is going to detail every meal, at least those details should be interesting and maybe make the reader wish that they could try some of the specialities. I come away from these books thankful that I don’t have to stay there for dinner.
Book number 340 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.
For more than a millennium now Erna’s humans have maintained an uneasy stalemate with the fae, that treacherous force of nature which feeds on the human psyche. Adepts and sorcerers work the fae for their own profit, while the demonic creatures who feed upon such efforts rapidly gain in power and ambition. Now one of these demons, a Iezu called Calesta, has declared war on all of mankind.
Master of illusion, devourer of pain, he plans to remake the human species until mankind exists only to sate his unquenchable thirst for suffering, and omens of his triumph are already apparent.
Only Damien Vryce, warrior-priest of the One God, and his unlikely ally, the undead sorcerer Gerald Tararnt stand between Calesta and his triumph. Nothing short of the demon’s absolute destruction will save mankind from his unholy influence. But no one on Erna is certain just what the Iezu really are and no man has ever succeeded in killing one.
Faced with an enemy who may prove invulnerable, Damien and Tarrant must risk everything in a war that will take them from the depths of Hell to the birthplace of demons and beyond—in a battle which could cost them not only their lives, but the very soul of all mankind.
A good ending to a very dark fantasy trilogy. Damien Vryce must come to terms with his role in the Church--running around with its demonic founder, Gerald Tarrant, has damaged his reputation and made the Holy Father very, very angry. Apparently saving humankind on the planet Erna does not give him special dispensation to associate with the Hunter. What did amaze me was that after his visit to Hell to rescue his demonic pal, Vryce continues to bellyache about conditions all along the way as they sought to confront the demon Calesta.
Counterpoint to Vryce is the Hunter’s last remaining human descendant, Andrys Tarrant, who is in Calesta’s thrawl and is well on the way to addling himself through drugs and alcohol. The Holy Father recruits him too and becomes similarly disenchanted with this substance dependent pretty boy.
I am a fan of the ambiguous ending, which made me very happy with Friedman’s conclusion to this book. The ending also explained to me the image that Michael Whelan painted for the cover. Who is this pretty boy in black leather pants, wielding a cold-fire sword, swishing his duster suggestively? You’ll find out in those final pages!
Book number 339 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.