Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: "Discount Armageddon," by Seanan McGuire

I just posted this to Amazon, but it's entirely possible that they'll edit or reject it. So, in case I have to go back and curtail some of my previous comments, I thought I'd go ahead and get the original post out here.
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Early, But Worth Waiting For


I keep going back and forth on how to start this review, which you might notice is going up a couple of weeks in advance of the actual release date. I'm not a prereader in the normal sense of the term, haven't received an ARC and I'm certainly nobody from whom you'd expect to see a blurb on the cover; I'm just a guy whose wife knew he enjoyed Seanan McGuire's October Daye series, so she preordered the first Incryptid novel when it was announced. And Amazon, in blithe disregard of release dates, sent it on to our greedy hands well in advance. Which is great, except for the fact that the NYT Bestseller list focuses on week one for its ranking system - and here we are in week -2, receiving our books, generating all of these sales. It's astoundingly unfair to a novel that deserves accolades and praises, and it's a resounding shame.

And yet, at the same time, I can't help but enjoy a guilty frisson of pleasure because I got to read it first. It took me less than six hours to consume this tale of monster hunting, monster cataloging, ballroom dancing and assorted deeds of derring-do, not because I'm a freakishly fast reader (although my wife would be one of the first to point that finger - "J'accuse!") but because it was, quite frankly, that good. This should come as no surprise to other readers of her Toby Daye series - Ms. McGuire is a talented author, with equal skills in creating memorable characters, spinning witty dialogue, and laying out a gripping storyline that catches you quick and rockets you along the rails (and sometimes above them, below them, or to one side or the other as you do those crazy, hairpin Wild Maus turns) to the conclusion.

"Discount Armageddon," on this note, does not disappoint; our heroine, Verity Price, is a daughter of the infamous Price family, who broke from the genocidal Covenant generations past to make their own way in the secret world of the supernatural. Far from being monster hunters, the Prices are monster catalogers - cryptozoologists, bound to study and protect the hundreds of races of unrecognized creatures, the Cryptids, living in the nooks and crannies of the daylight world. Some of these beasts are dangerous animalistic predators, and for the good of anything edible around them (i.e., humans), they must be contained or destroyed. Many of them are sentient creatures who just want to live their lives in peace - to bake pastries, to accumulate gold, or to eat pigeons in the park. The Prices are the unsung champions of the Cryptid world, believed a myth by most, hunted by some; and yet, despite this fantastic world to which she belongs, this is not the life Verity chooses. She is, at heart, a ballroom dancer; she has even managed to win something of a reputation in her field, thanks to reality television, dogged persistence, and an insanely deprived sleep schedule as she rushes to fill her family and professional obligations, both. Now living in New York City, far from friends and family, she finds herself in the middle of a Cryptid crisis that could very well threaten all she's tried to build for herself; the Covenant has come to the city, and Cryptids are disappearing. Especially young, female Cryptids...

Old hands in the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genre will see the romance subplot coming from a mile away - from first meeting, perhaps, as I did. On the other hand, the betrayals and twists in the plot - and there are a couple - are both richly layered and cunningly laid, and are likely to catch the reader as much by surprise as they do the characters. This is an enjoyable beginning to what promises to be an enjoyable series, and is to be looked forward to by all fans.

Which leads us to another point, one only tangentially related to "Discount Armageddon," and that is this; people are bastard covered bastards with bastard filling. Because Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other distributors have released the printed copies early, but not the e-books, the author - who has no control over the release date of any of her material - has been the recipient of vulgar abuses and threats. It shouldn't have to be stated in any sort of civilized society that threatening physical violence over an intangible offense, especially one that does no actual harm (like having to wait two weeks for a story - two weeks to a release date that has not altered). And because the author is a woman, of course, many of these threats and taunts take on demeaning and sexually aggressive tones. This is, quite literally, behavior that should have been curbed in kindergarten. It's behavior that, quite honestly, makes me ashamed of my gender, and ashamed to hear these people refer to themselves as fans. The story, and a plea from Ms. McGuire, can be found here - http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/425907.html - but it's no exaggeration to say that the people in question have nothing more than my complete and utter disdain and contempt.

TL;DR version of the above: people suck, this book does not. Read it. Enjoy it. Don't be a bastard to the writer, because it discourages her from producing more such fantastic stories.

1 comment:

Alice Keezer said...

I'm glad someone mentioned the Amazon issue in the review, because that issue is precisely why I made up my mind to do a giveaway on my blog to get the book into more people's hands and increase those first week sales. I was already all over the place in my review, though, and couldn't figure out how to slip it in without totally going off the rails.