Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

I started this one late last night--like, "read the first chapter before bed" kind of late--and finished it tonight. That really sums up the thing: it's light-weight, keeps moving at a good clip, and is compelling enough to keep the reader from doing other (no doubt more important) things.

Being modern urban fiction, there's a lot in here that borrows heavily from--or at least resonates strongly with--other contemporary series. Fortunately, there are enough differences to keep it from feeling at all like a knock off.

The setting first, since that's probably the most novel part. Some brilliant scientist managed to rip a hole in dimensions--never mind that, okay?--and discovered that there are at least two other worlds out there, populated with living beings and complex societies and all that. One, Elysia, is a rough analog to what we call heaven; the other, Charbydon, is a bit like hell. The theory is that our old heaven-and-hell mythos came about long ago when the worlds still mingled. Now that the dimensional rip thing has happened, they're mingling again. Creatures from the other worlds are coming here in some quantity, though Elysia won't let many humans go through to there (and no one really wants to go to Charbydon). It's a little hokey, sure, but it's easily as stable a premise as any other UF series builds on.

Then there's the protagonist: a tough-as-nails human female cop working in an "integration task force"--that is, a division that's supposed to help with human/nonhuman problems. Sound a little like Murphy from Dresden? Not dissimilar. Ex-husband, attachment problems, etc. Except that the MC here is turning weird: after a death and mysterious resurrection, she's picked up inexplicable and erratic superpowers (maybe a little like Greatest American Hero, if you remember that show, but with more death and blood and stuff).

And the "urban" part. Has to be a big city, right? We've got series based in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York... this one's in Atlanta. It doesn't really feel at all like Atlanta, though, except for the one throw-away reference to Georgia Tech students. Where Dresden posits a "Chicago underworld" composed of sunken houses' and businesses' first floors and tunnels, here there's an "Atlanta underground". This one's a little more plausible, though: it's closer to a Chinatown than anything, with no hidden entrances and shops that cater to three worlds' worth of people.

Some of the characters' reactions plucked a foul chord or two, and the triumphant resolution sounded a little sour: the final battle seemed a little easy, for example, with the big baddie doing totally nada. And a lot of strings were left untied, but that's forgivable since this is clearly the start of a series.

Anyway, if you're into urban fantasy this is probably a good one to pick up. I'll be buying the sequel.

B&N link

No comments: