Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ye Gods

Three God novels today. Well, not entirely, but that's what the titles claim. 

I wasn't at all sure about Lyndsay Faye's newest, The Gods of Gotham, when I started it. Set in New York City in 1845, in the midst of the potato famine and the resultant mass influx of Irish into the city, I was just a little put off by the 'let's analyze the ethnic interrelationships' of it all. But I gave it a chance. (Well, I returned the print version, but then I checked out the audio narrated by Steven Boyer, and was absorbed entirely.) It's not just that Boyer's voice - just tense enough, with a sweet, sad note that suited Tim Wilde's story perfectly - made the story better, though this is one of those cases that I recommend audio if you're at all an audio person. But once Faye's scene is set - Timothy is shoe-horned into a job as a copper star, the new police force for the city, by his larger-than-life brother Valentine - the novel really takes off. A blood-soaked ten-year-old girl fleeing the brothel where she was raised literally runs into Tim after the end of his patrol, and through the tissue of her lies, a truth emerges: the unmarked graves of nineteen carved up child prostitutes ('kinchen mabs' in the flash vernacular that pervades the book, most of which is incorporated without a lot of blatant translation exposition.) As Tim re-imagines his job to involve not just the stopping but also the solving of crimes, he runs alongside and sometimes afoul of a variety of well-drawn characters - the minister and his lovely daughter, the mob of newspaper sellers, the Irish being courted by Valentine's Democratic Party, Val himself, with his many moods and vices. It's a rich and complex world, well worth visiting, even as it evolves. 

I first read Neil Gaiman's American Gods about six years ago, and I was immediately on board with his vision of Old World deities fighting to maintain their place among the powerhouses of the modern age, with technology's wunderkind doing his best to stop Odin from bringing his forces together. Our hero, Shadow, is released from jail a few days early to attend his wife's funeral, and thus begins a journey that gets just a little crazier every step of the way. Anyway. During my Armchair Audies work, I often saw the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods mentioned - a full cast audio, revised and updated by Gaiman - and it took the prize for audiobook of the year. So I got it, and listened, and yep, that would be one well-deserved prize-winner right there. The cast is clearly having a lot of fun playing leprechauns and trickster spiders and carbon-copy men in black suits, and why wouldn't they? They have such an immersive text to work with. It's fully capable of enhancing twenty hours of your life.

I am still captivated by Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series, and The God of the Hive is absolutely no exception. I've read ten books in the series over the past five months, and my appetite for Russell and Holmes is still so strong that I'm beginning to experience anxiety that King has only published two more so far. That'll take me into next month, but what then? How will I slake my desire for all things Holmesian? (That's not a real question. There are a plethora of options, including the first novel by the aforementioned Lyndsay Faye, but I don't know that anything will really satisfy in the same way.) So, at this point, Russell and Holmes are married, and have been through trials across the globe. They are recently returned to England, where they meet (in The Language of Bees) Holmes's son by Irene Adler. Damian is a bit older than his stepmother, but his relationship with Holmes is far newer. He brings trouble along with his presence in their lives - for himself, his wife, and his young daughter.  Holmes and Russell, of course, jump into the fray, and as this book opens, they are on separate - and dangerous - journeys to protect the various new members of their family. They both meet with new associates who they hope will become allies, as they progress together via cryptic messages and their sure knowledge of how the other is likely to act. There is whimsy and wit and a certain amount of ripping apart of the known to get to even deeper truths. Have I mentioned I love this series? I love this series.

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