Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Technomancer (Unspeakable Things: Book One)" by B.V. Larson

So I was looking for some books to download to my newly acquired Kindle that were on the cheap side and I stumbled across one that was a mere 99 cents. The title was “Technomancer”, the first part in a trilogy called “Unspeakable Things” by author B.V. Larson. The cover looked kind of rad and the description given piqued my interest. It sounded vaguely cyberpunky, like something that would take place in the Shadowrun universe. I decided to give it a shot. My reasoning being that if it sucked ass it cost me less than a dollar.

“Technomancer” ended up being one of the most consistently entertaining and creatively realized books I’ve read in some time.

Quentin Draith awakens in a Las Vegas mental hospital with no memory and a broken leg. After escaping he comes to realize that he’s involved in strange happenings that seem to follow him wherever he goes. He sets out to not only reclaim his past, but solve the mystery behind a series of bizarre murders that may be linked to an alien invasion that threatens the world.

In a nutshell this is a fantasy novel, not unlike something out of Dungeons & Dragons. The twist is that it takes place in modern day Las Vegas. Instead of orcs and trolls there are The Gray Men, hulking alien invaders from a parallel dimension that have found a way to rip through to our plane of existence. Instead of spells and magic there are Artifacts, everyday items that have been altered and enable them to bestow their owner with a power of some sort. For example, Draith comes to possess a pair of sunglasses that allow him to make metal pliant enough to bend. He uses them to open locked doors, safes and escape handcuffs. These items are highly sought after by members of The Community, powerful Artifact hoarders that have laid claim to whole areas of Vegas, known as Domains.

Draith is known as a Rogue, someone who operates outside The Community with the assistance of Artifacts. He reminded me a little bit of Harry Dresden. The character is written as a tabula rasa which is a cliché I admire a great deal as it helps me identify with the main character more easily. It also helps that Larson writes the book in the first person, so as Draith learns about the strangeness going on around him I learn right alongside him. Draith is sort of like a Jason Bourne of the weird, being drawn inexplicably toward all the supernatural/extradimensional shenanigans in Vegas. He’s not the greatest hero in the world as he’s just as flawed as everybody else he comes across, but he knows how to woo the ladies and kick some ass. He’s slightly nihilistic and nutty, but for the most part he’s a very likeable unlikely hero.

Most of the other characters Larson creates are just as likeable, some higher and some lower on the scale. The plot is fast paced, interesting and fun. His twists on the fantasy formula made me want to keep reading to find out what mainstay he’d mess around with next. He does tend to either overdo his action scenes or completely underplay them. The big finale is kind of a rush job that left me wanting more since it felt like he was saying to himself “Shit, there’s only thirty pages left! Gotta wrap this bitch up pronto!” as I read it. But he’s an inventive guy and I will give him a pass on that. There are the expected twists and turns, double crosses and revelations, some are predictable and others come out of left field. Regardless, I blew through this book at record speed which is really saying something.

I especially liked the way Larson showed off a seedier side of the seedy side of Vegas. The fact that people are mindlessly throwing their money away in a futile attempt to get rich while a private war is being waged that could destroy the world is taking place just outside their field of vision is cool in the extreme.

One issue I had was that I couldn’t figure out if I was reading a young adult novel or an adult one. Larson writes in a simple, yet completely adequate style that a younger reader would be able to follow easily. However, there are F-Bombs being dropped left and right, gore and ultra-violence splashes across the page in ample amounts and one character is a stripper. Larson doesn’t seem to be able to decide what audience he was aiming for, but maybe that was his intention to lull readers into a false sense of security. Make them think they’re in for a tame young adult book and then have people getting ripped apart descriptively for shock value.

My main gripe is the way Larson writes dialogue. I understand that some characters are more “high class” than others, but when you have gutter rats speaking in a highly formal and overly educated manner I have to call bullshit. There were numerous times when a particular character’s speech patterns would change to that style out of the blue and I’d say to myself “no one talks like that no matter how educated they are”. Sometimes its cheesy, sometimes its annoying. There were times where it took me completely out of the story.

All in all this was a great read that came out of nowhere and whooped my ass. I didn’t want it to end since I fell in love with the universe it takes place in and all the mysteries that encapsulate it. I especially enjoyed the Artifacts and their varied abilities. It’s a bit pulpy, but never smutty. It’s just a ton of fun and I couldn’t wait to download the next installment in the series, “The Bone Triangle”.

I highly recommend this surprisingly taut thriller that plays with fantasy conventions in entertaining ways. You won’t be disappointed.

4 out of 5

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