I spent the first half of this book wondering if Goblin was insane or if we’d find that her fantasy world was as real as she was. Then I found myself wondering if she was real; it’s that kind of a book. It’s also the kind of book where you spend a lot of time waiting for the worst to happen, for Goblin to lose someone or something she cares about, and when it happens, your heart breaks for her even though she faces each loss with a stoicism well beyond her years. It would be a miracle if she wasn’t a little crazy.
Goblin is an unforgettable character, a child who goes entirely her own way because she’s learned that she must in order to survive. She’s fierce, and clever, and she is always able to give love, at least for a time, to the people who come to care for her. To the animals who she rescues, she is all love and caring. Her sexuality is unashamed, everything about her speaks to her strength and determination. Except for one thing, an event which unfolds over the course of the novel, and which has blighted her life so completely that she’s denied it, preferring to live in a fantasy world.
Ever Dundas’ writing is spot on. She has an easy style, one slightly reminiscent (to me anyway) of Neil Gaiman. She doesn’t balk at telling harsh truths, but she doesn’t use them to shock or horrify. Bad things happen. You deal with them. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to read this because it’s given me a new author to follow, and that is always a wonderful thing.
The Punch Escrow is a fun exercise in the possibilities and dangers of future tech. Joel and his wife are on their way to a second honeymoon when a terrorist bomb damages the teleportation center just as Joel is traveling from NY to Costa Rica. The disruption in the process produces evidence of the true nature of teleportation (a well-guarded secret) in the form of a duplicate Joel, one still in New York, and one in Costa Rica.
With a virtual army of enemies, spies, mad scientists, and religious fanatics all trying to capture the Joels and their wife to serve their own ends, the story is fast-paced and exciting. Mostly. There are a couple of points where I felt the narrative bogged down with a bit too much of the “What?” and “I don’t understand.” or “Why are you doing this?” going on. Still, it’s a fun story with a protagonist (two of them) who is a smart-ass, with the emphasis on smart.
This is a fast read. There’s nothing heavy here, not even philosophical questions which might have been heavier in different hands. But narrated by a less-than-serious hero, the story never indulges in too much moralizing about the inherent dangers of unfettered technological development.
Greta Helsing has an illustrious heritage. She’s the granddaughter of Abraham van Helsing, arch nemesis of Count Dracula. But instead of hunting vampires, Greta heals them. The Strange Practice of the title refers to Greta’s medical practice which caters to the undead, or as Shaw puts it in more politically correct terms, the “differently alive.” Her patients include vampires, mummies, ghouls, demons, and more, and she runs her clinic on a shoestring, but she’s loved in the community of the monstrous, and she does good work since most of them are simply trying to get by in a world where people, if they believe at all, believe her patients to be evil.
When one of her patients, and a dear friend, Lord Ruthven, calls Greta in to tend to Sir Francis Varney, who has been attacked by chanting monks who have wounded him, perhaps mortally, you know that this book is going to be a lot of fun. It’s a just-one-more-chapter book that kept me reading well into the night.
Shaw knows her background material and respects it, even though she doesn’t take it too seriously. If I have a quibble it’s that sometimes the characterization is a little flat. I didn’t get a lot of feeling for the emotional lives of the characters and how they related to each other. I got those things explained to me from time to time, but got no visceral sense of who they were.
Nevertheless, I got a real kick out of this book, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
What begins as a strange and lovely creation myth, a story of nine siblings who create our solar system, segues into a reminiscence by the narrator about the time he led a friend astray. The friend is the creator of Earth, seen in the story as a disembodied face, always looking upward, looking for the sun. It’s a story of the face’s obsessive love for the sun, and how that threatens all life on earth. And it’s a tale of guardianship, the story of the narrator who, in saving the earth betrays his friend, the face, and who becomes the face’s guardian and monitor.
The artwork is simple but lovely, and the interwoven text compliments it perfectly, filling in the details for us. It’s beautiful to look at, difficult to fathom, and impossible to forget.