A Kiss Before the Apocalypse (2008)
I first came across Remy Chandler when I read the anthology Mean Streets. Thomas Sniegoski wrote the closing story, and I ended up reading that story in a single sitting.
Remy Chandler is a private detective. And an angel. Except that he’s been on extended leave from being part of the heavenly choir and instead has been hanging around earth for millenia. He’s also married, although that marriage is coming to an end, for his wife has aged while he has remained ageless, so when he visits her in the nursing home, all assume she is his mother. He’s trying to deal with this impending loss when some of his brethren show up in his office asking him to the angel of Death, who seems to have disappeared.
I’m of two minds about this book. I very much like a good deal of what he’s done–I really like the fact that we’re seeing an immortal deal with the end of love rather than the start. That’s a fascinating perspective and one I thought was done extremely well. I also liked the characters, and the fact that Marlowe was a main character. I’m not sure that I think Marlowe could handle such complex thoughts as he sometimes managed, but I thought overall he did a pretty good job with it.
However. Having read the novella that follows this book, about halfway through the story I started to wish the story was moving faster, since I knew the basics of what as going to happen.
Was I overtired? Yes. Did this affect my opinion. Possibly. It’s hard to say. Usually I’m pretty good with just putting a book down and picking it up the next day. But not last night.
How does this affect my overall opinion of the book?
As I said, there are parts of the book that were very well done. I think the mystery was probably the weakest part of the story, and that may be why I was tired towards the end of the book, as the first half of the book was world building and getting to know Remy and Madeline and everyone else. And that part of the book was very very good.
And the novella that followed this was also very good (after all, it enticed me to go back and pick up the first book). So I’ve ordered the following book when it comes out in paperback, so we’ll just have to wait until then.
Dancing on the Head of a Pin (2009)
Remy Chandler may have averted the apocalypse, but things aren’t looking any better for him this time around. He’s been hired to recover some missing weapons–weapons that are most certainly more than they first appear.
The second Remy Chandler novel actually follows the short story in Mean Streets. When I read the first book, A Kiss Before the Apocolypse, one thing I noted was that I started hurrying through the second half of the book, but thought it might have been because I’d read the novella in Mean Streets first, and so had a good idea what was going to happen.
Unfortunately, I found the same thing with this book. Part of it was possible the continual flashbacks to Remy’s life with Madeline. I get what the author was trying to do with the flashbacks, but to me they felt like speed bumps in what was otherwise a fast-paced story.
Additionally, some parts of the mystery seemed almost blindingly obvious. Relatively early in the story I thought, “well, that’s where the weapons are,” then thought, “no, that’s just entirely too blatant,” yet that was it precisely.
Not that parts of the story were not a surprise–they were. But even that was a bit of a problem. I kept being reminded of other books and tales (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Simon R. Green’s Nightside kept coming to mind, as did Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels [Interestingly, all those are British authors. Do the Brits have a better idea of Hell than Americans?]) and kept finding this story falling flat in comparison.
One other thing. Upon inspection, this is a really terrible cover. Every time I looked at the cover, I kept thinking Ben Browder was about to be attacked by mini-glowy-eyed hyenas and extra tall, extra skinny jawas. I know that a cover shouldn’t make or break a story, but I really hate bad fantasy covers. With covers like that, small wonder no one wants to take the category seriously.
So although this story does have much to recommend it, it is most definitely not my cup of tea, and in comparison to other books set in Hell or that deal with Lucifer, this was unfortunately a letdown.
And now I want to watch “Farscape.”
Mean Streets (2009)
OK. I admit it. I’m an Amazon junkie. I often search for my favorite artists and look at coming releases to see if anyone I love has something new coming out. Which is how I stumbled upon Mean Streets. I believe it is possible I looked at the authors involved an actually squealed. But can you blame me? Kat Richardson, Simon R. Green, and Jim Butcher. All in one book? Have I died and gone to supernatural fantasy reader heaven?
And what makes pre-ordering even better, is that I get the joy of ordering the book, and then some point months later the book magically appears on my doorstep after I’ve forgotten about it.
How could you ask for anything more?
The final story was Thomas E. Sniegoski’s story “Noah’s Orphans.” I have to admit that after finishing “The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” I put the anthology down. I mean, I’d never even heard of Thomas Sniegoski, and here he is closing of an anthology of some of my favorite authors.
But despite myself I glanced at the first couple sentences. “OK,” I thought. “I’ll read a page or two. But I know nothing about this Remy character, and it looks like he’s got previous stories, so this doesn’t bode well…”
Next thing I know I’m finishing the story.
Remy Chandler–angel and private detective–is grieving over the death of his wife. He finds himself not just dreaming he sees his wife, but finds himself drawn into a case against his will, to find who has murdered Noah.
Yes, that’s Noah of the Ark.
The story was complex, yet not confusing, despite the fact I was meeting these characters for the first time. But I have this feeling as if I’ve read about Remy in another anthology, but can for the life of me figure out what anthology that was.
So this was an excellent anthology, and I believe it would be a good introduction to any of these authors or characters.
Luckily, the title is not reflective of most of the stories inside.
Playing Possum - Charlaine Harris
Spellcaster 2.0 - Jonathan Maberry
Academy Field Trip - Donald Harstad
Sympathy for the Bones - Marjorie M. Liu
Low School - Rhys Bowen
Callie Meet Happy - Amber Benson
Iphigenia in Aulis - Mike Carey
Golden Delicious - Faith Hunter
Magic Tests - Ilona Andrews
An Introduction to Jewish Myth and Mysticism - Steve Hockensmith
VSI - Nancy Holder
The Bad Hour - Thomas E. Sniegoski
Pirate Dave and the Captain's Ghost - Toni L.P. Kelner
The anthology opens with a Sookie Stackhouse story, which… I’m sorry, but I got annoyed with Sookie several books back, so I have a hard time reading Sookie stories with an open mind. So, I found this story okay. Sookie is taking cupcakes to her nephew Hunter’s kindergarten class, when bad things happen.
The story “Spellcaster 2.0″ by Jonathan Maberry was an unusual story that I quite enjoyed. Several times I thought I knew what was happening and where things were going, and although I saw the Big Event (kinda obvious, given the series) I kept being surprised by the turns of events. A project entering every magical spell that can be found into a database appears to be having glitches.
Donald Harstead’s story “Academy Field Trip” was an interesting one. Law enforcement professionals are at a special training course; the three instructors pull one student aside to get her input on a “special case.” I can’t say I loved the story, but it was interesting.
“Sympathy for the Bones” by Marjorie M. Liu was very good. A young girl was taken in and raised by the local wise woman who uses her powers for her own gain and as she sees fit. Nice, complex tale.
“Low School,” by Rhys Bowen was okay, but I saw where it was going right away. I did appreciate how your opinion of the main character changed as the story went in. People are complex and do things for complex reasons, and I think this was a fabulous example of creating a very complex character. But for the most part the story left me cold.
Amber Benson’s “Callie Meet Happy” was set in her Calliope Reaper-Jones series, and just as I’ve had a hard time getting into the series (I’m only a couple chapters into the first book) so I had a hard time getting into this story. Callie, who inherited her father’s position of grim reaper, needs to learn the necessary skills for the position, and so is sent to a remediation course. I think the problem is that I don’t find Callie at all sympathetic.
“Iphigenia in Aulis” by Mike Carey is an amazing story. We learn bits and pieces as the story progresses, and the more we learn, the more horrified we are. This is a stand alone story not set in any of his existing worlds (that I know of).
Faith Hunter’s “Golden Delicious” is set after the last Jane Yellowrock story. Rick is trying to rebuild his life after being infected with the were-virus, and so attempting to recover whatever law enforcement career he can. I like Rick, so I enjoyed this peek into seeing him recover his life.
Ilona Andrews’ story “Golden Delicious” is set in the world of Kate Daniels, but Kate barely makes an appearance. Kate’s ward, Julie (at Kate’s insistence) needs to remain in school. As part of her introduction to the latest school, she is asked to see if she can discover why a student disappeared. As usual, Ilona Andrews’ stories do not disappoint me.
“An Introduction to Jewish Myth and Mysticism” by Steve Hockensmith was a very interesting story that I very much liked. A professor is traumatized when her abusive ex returns to town, so a friend decides to see what he can do to convince her ex to leave. I quite enjoyed this story.
Nancy Holder’s story “VSI” focused on a special training class where agents are shown evidence of the existence of vampires and trained to analyze crime scenes in which vampires may have been involved. I liked this one as well.
The last two stories weren’t my cup of tea. I’ve read several books in the Remy Chandler series, and found them… okay. I don’t dislike them, and I didn’t dislike this story. I just didn’t do anything for me.
All in all, it was a decent selection of short stories that made up for terrible title.
Published by Ace