Originally, asthma this was supposed to be a review of Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, surgery Little Brother. Unfortunately, he decided to do something rotten like take his newborn kid to visit the family, so he hasn’t had time to release the online Creative Commons (read: free) version of the novel and I haven’t read it yet. (This is Free Books on the Internet Week, anyway.) So instead I’ve had to move Thursday’s review up to Wednesday, and add another one on the end. I haven’t decided what, quite yet, but I’ve got choices.
This novel is one of the last type that I mentioned in my initial post: when one gets an individual novel off of an individual author’s website. Darkside is even rarer, in that Perry has not published any novels, to my knowledge, and I had never heard of him/her. I found a link off of someone else’s blog a week or so ago and thought, Why not?
James Decker is dead. Only not really: he’s still walking, talking, breathing when he feels like it, and eating. Of course, he isn’t bleeding anymore, and now he can see ghosts, vampires, trolls, and things that go bump in the night. Of course, the reason he isn’t dead is that he’s fallen into a mythology unlike anything he’d ever quite heard of — a world of Innocents, of which there are very few, and Eternals, of which there are also very few. There’s an Innocent named Alex that he must protect, though, and there are some pretty awful things going after her.
The worldbuilding was probably the most impressive part of this book. It’s, when in the human world, set in Kingston, ON (Canada), but a significant portion of the book is set in the Summerlands or Fairyland. Perry’s description was, overall, very good. There were occasional slip-ups, such as when James would know things he couldn’t possibly. For example, our intrepid group enters the troll-lands and we get this bit of description:
We stood on a rock promontory that jutted out from a cliff face for about twenty feet, and looked down over a valley another thousand feet below. The ceiling of the great cavern was another two hundred or so feet overhead, and glimmered with a soft, pale orange light that bathed the landscape in its warm glow. Monuments to great trolls of the past had been carved into the cavern walls, some reaching from floor to ceiling so that these colossal stone gods looked down on the valley. Massive marble steps inset with ancient runes led from the promontory down into the basin.
How does he know they’re Great Trolls of the Past, and ancient runes? Are they labeled? That doesn’t happen very often, though.
Along with the setting and the description, we also have the mythology. Perry’s vampires are humans possessed by demons. I’ve seen variations on that in the past, but not quite so — blatant. I mean that admiringly, though. The Innocents and Eternals are new to me — oh, not entirely new. Innocents are closely related to saints, and Eternals are sort of somewhere between angels and Highlander. However, I quite enjoyed them, and the ogres, trolls, and various other preternaturals.
James is smart-alecky, sarcastic, and a damned funny narrator. I’d definitely look forward to hearing more of his voice narrating things. He rode the edge of being irreverent without ever quite pushing it past that line into irksome, at least for me. I’ll give this novel 4/5 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes urban fantasy and would like reading something with a male protagonist. Here’s hoping that S. K. S. Perry will give us more in the future!