Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Local Habitation

by Seanan McGuire

A considerable improvement over Rosemary and Rue, with a lot more humor, an interest in the setting and a plot that makes a little bit of sense. Less gritty and conventional overall, and the book appears to trust in its own momentum more, rather than drawing so heavily on the cliches of a hardboiled urban detective. Carrying its energy means there are some significant plot holes and sense of lagging momentum at points, but the main story works a lot better, and ties into the larger world and main character’s perspective in a decent manner.

Toby Daye is still miswritten as a rugged and effective private investigator, though. It’s made too clear from the context of how she behaves that she’s just not capable or adaptive enough, making the scenes where she throws her weight around rather aggrivating. The series needs to step up to the plate with Toby a lot more if it wants to really work on its own terms, either recognizing Toby’s haphazard skillset as a detective or writing her to actually be as smart as her dialog seems to indicate she is.

The series also continues to do some rather strange things for urban fantasy. It's just as isolated from the real world as the first volume was--every character that appears is a fae or changeling, regular humans are at most a second-order afterthought. Even more bizarre is the way this world is constructed, and its approach to the integration of the magic with the mundane. The ultra-conservative, snobby isolationist true blood fairies routinely send their children to mainstream high school, use all manner of current technology, and are relatively integrated. And there's no taboo against such a fae dating a human. Similarly, the plot eventually is shown to involve an even more xenophobic, anti-human faction---who embrace as their mechanism a form of transhumanism, involving mind-duplication and uploading of fae consciousness. The implications and the way it plays out is magical, but the actual technique could have featured in Mindscan. It's not entirely coherent, but it's perhaps the most interesting thing about the series--the way that some stock conventions are played straight while others are twisted around and applied as if they're totally natural.

Better than: Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Worse than: King Rat by China Mieville

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