Laura Parkinson (stormfeather) wrote,
Laura Parkinson

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In a Nutshell: Books - Mean Streets by various (novella anthology)

So I just mentioned this in a comment to a post the other day, and said I should probably get it. I then thought "well, why not now?" and trundled off to (or let my fingers do the trundling) to order it, and thanks to the wonders of Amazon Prime + a nearby distribution center, it was in my hands the next morning. I then intended to read it slowly, but.... a book with four novellas isn't really the best for that, since they're all just big enough that they take a little while to read, but short enough that you feel stupid stopping in the middle.

Edit: Duh, I guess I should also mention that the four novels all revolve around the concept of the private investigator subset of the urban supernatural sub-genre. In other words, they're all private eyes with Something Extra, in a world not quite our own. (That last should be said in movie-announcer-voice, obviously.)

Anywho, with just four novellas in the book, I should be able to take each one individually.

Mean Streets by various

"The Warrior" by Jim Butcher

This is, surprise surprise, a Harry Dresden novella. And as such, I don't have much new to say about it - it does suffer a bit from not having the space to develop compared to the actual Dresden novels, but it's still good, and still Harry.

If asked, I could have lobbied for a different topic - the novella revolves around the Carpenter family, which have a bit of an odd place in my mind and heart as characters - I *like* them as characters, but I kinda cringe to see them show up anymore, unless it's just the kids (like Molly), because they're basically a big Deus Ex Machina just waiting to happen. Which for a change isn't something against the *writing*... it's completely logical... but not as entertaining. If that makes sense. (It probably does if you've read the series, and probably doesn't at all if you haven't.)

Anyhow, one of the better novellas of the anthology, if not the best, but also not something that so blows me away as a Dresden fan that I'd say all other fans have to rush out to buy it.

"The Difference a Day Makes" by Simon R. Green

This is another John Taylor story. As you may recall, I just reviewed a book from the same author dealing with the same character recently. And this story hasn't done anything to change my impression of the series. It deals with the story of yet another dame walking in and hiring Taylor to find yet another missing person, who is All Important to them and Hell or high water won't keep them apart, etc etc... you know the drill.

It might have *slightly* more entertaining characters and interesting concepts, but only slightly, and considering how much time and space the writing has had to grow by this point (this anthology was just released, while the previous book was over 5 years old), I'm not very impressed. Half of the things that show up still peg my "twee" meter, and there's still the feeling that there are really no rules to the magic/physics/whatever in this world, which may SOUND all well and good but IMNSHO sucks as far as world-building goes, and for entertainment for the reader. Plus the main character still converses in fluent Narration. Plus now after the previous review and comments (damn you flemco) I'm stuck snickering like a kid every time I run across something like "Sin is always in season in the Nightside" or "This is the Nightside [...] We do ten impossible things before breakfast, just for a cheap thrill. Abandon all taboos, ye who enter here" or "You can find absolutely anything in the Nightside; and every sinner finds their own level of Hell, or Heaven."

So yeah. Still not the worst writing I've read, but then again that's damning with faint praise.

"The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog" by Kat Richardson

And this third story, honestly, I'm somewhat neutral on. It's a Harper Blaine story, and the dealio is apparently that Harper (which is a woman, which took me a good few pages to figure out) is a Greywalker, or something like that. Which is someone who can see (and has limited power over) ghosts, due to her dying for like 2 minutes and being resurrected. Or something. The world seems to be pretty much normal present-day, with some low-grade magic (witchcraft and such) existing, and the aforementioned ghosts, and the like. Although it's kinda hard to get a strong feel for the world in general in just one novella.

The story starts with Harper is hired to take a clay dog to Mexico and lay it on the grave of someone she's never met on a specific day (one of the Days of the Dead), as per the request of the will of a recently deceased woman that she's also never heard of. The story unfolds as she tries to a) figure out how to complete the request in time, and b) try to figure out just what the hell is going on underneath, in the process.

It's not a Big Epic story by any means, but it's also not bad. Most of the characters are a bit bland, as is the world, really, which is part of my not really wanting to rush right out and grab the first book in the series, but the writing's good enough, and at least it doesn't go off into the Lands of Twee or anything. (Which is a bit more of a concern after the previous story in the book, I guess, not something I necessarily worry about quite as much.) And some of the characters, at least, were more interesting, or looked like they might have been given more screen-time. Also on the bright side, it actually deals with some interesting culture and so forth, as opposed to the books that just stay Generic Whitebread American.

Although, all that said, there is one gaping plot hole that bothers me, but it's pretty spoilery so I'll ROT-13 it, in case someone else has read/comes to read the book and wants to chime in on it:

Fb cneg bs gur ceboyrz vf gung gur jbzna'f jvyy jnf sbetrq va gur svefg cynpr. Ohg gura, gur jubyr gnxr-gur-qbt-gb-gur-tenir guvat jnf nyfb cneg bs gur jvyy, naq jnf yrsg va. Naq lrg gur ynjlre va dhrfgvba vf qvfgheorq rabhtu nobhg gur fgvchyngvba gb unir gur qbt "nppvqragnyyl" oebxra ng phfgbzf - fb jul qbrfa'g ur whfg erzbir gung fgvchyngvba sebz gur jvyy va gur svefg cynpr, be oneevat gung, "nppvqragnyyl" unir gur guvat oebxra orsber vg rira trgf gb Unecre?

So my overall impression is, as I said, neutral. Not bad, and I may at some point pick up one of the series if I come across them and am bored, but I'm also not rushing out to do so.

"Noah's Orphans" by Thomas E. Sniegoski

And finally, something to make me glad I picked up the anthology - a novella that I found interesting enough that I'll probably pick up the first novel of the related series, which I otherwise might not have done (or even come across it) had I not picked up Mean Streets.

Remy Chandler is a private investigator. Straightforward enough, except that Remy is a not-so-subtle pseudonym for Remiel, one of the Archangels of the host, who has drifted away from his heavenly origins (although he hasn't actually "fallen"), and has decided to try to live life as a mortal human, surrounded by the humanity that he loves.

The problem of course is that just because he wants to try to leave his divine nature buried, the world won't quite cooperate. There's one Big Thing (that is introduced right at the start of the short story, but that I won't mention because it seems like it might be spoily for the series itself, if anyone decides to pick one of them up) in his life that's screwed up right now. And as if that weren't enough, one of the Grigori, a group of Fallen Angels looking for redemption, approaches him with a problem of, um, biblical proportions.

Anyhow, without going into a bunch of spoily details (and since this is a novella rather than a novel, and part of a series, a lot of stuff would be spoily), I enjoyed the story surprisingly much. Usually I avoid anything with Christian overtones like the one of the Biblical Plagues, since they usually devolve either into Christian cheerleading, which makes me decidedly uncomfortable, or "OMG religion is the work of devil and the Worst Thing Evar" which in fiction is getting a bit overdone and trite. But this story seems to walk the line between the two surprisingly well, especially considering the main character's an Archangel-in-disguise. And it does give an interesting twist on some of the Christian mythos.

Aside from the world and plot, the characters are also unique and generally entertaining, and the writing solid. So... yeah, I figure I'll pick up the first in the series probably on my next Amazon order, and see how it works in a more expanded format.

So anyhow, now taking them all as a whole:

Recommendation: Not a waste of money, given two novellas distinctly on the good side, and one more neutral but not *bad*. Also however not something I'd say that everyone has to immediately rush out to buy. Give it a spin though, if you want to try some of the authors for yourself without going in for the first few of a whole series. Or if you are a big fan of one of the series involved, and see the other three novellas as a bonus.
Tags: books, nutshell, reviews
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