In the bedlam of up and coming urban fantasy novels resides “Borderline”, a strange, fast-paced, and surprisingly dark tale about magic, madness, and mystique.
It’s the fifteenth book of the Dresden Files. I know some avid readers who say the series has long since become same-old, same-old. Weirdly enough, I’m still engaged.
In the weird version of San Francisco featured in the same author’s “Love Story” trilogy of vampire novels—”Bloodsucking Fiends”, “You Suck”, and “Bite Me”—lives a textbook specimen of the creature known as the Beta Male. His name is Charlie Asher. He runs a second-hand shop (inherited from his father), shares a four-story apartment building (ditto) with his lesbian sister, and can’t believe his luck when a beautiful Jewish girl marries him and has his daughter. But then death swoops down in the form of a seven-foot-tall record store owner whose name, like his wardrobe, is Minty Green. Suddenly Charlie is a widower, a single father, and because he could see Death coming for his wife, he’s Death as well.
It’s been quite a few years since I read “Enchanted, Inc.” because, frankly, I’m a guy, and chick lit isn’t my thing. But it was such a funny and magical book that continuing with the series has often been on my mind. And now I find that the “Katie Chandler” series has grown to seven books. Based on the adventures of a Texas belle who finds adventure, romance, and professional fulfillment in New York, it combines the appeal of a “Sex and the City” spoof with the charm of a modern, urban fairy tale.
The narrative arc of a New York City-dwelling, legally nonexistent, average looking tough guy who fixes problems for a living continues to bend toward darker and stranger regions of fantasy and horror. Certainly by this book, if you haven’t picked up the vibe before now, you must be aware that the series is headed toward a final battle over the fate of the world, a battle in which Jack may stand alone between the human race and the ultimate darkness.
In the fifth of 16 “Repairman Jack” novels, a strange Russian lady with a large white dog appears at Jack’s sickbed and tells him that he, and he alone, must stop a virus that the adversary of all mankind has unleashed to create war, hate, death, fear, pain, and destruction.
India-born author Samit Basu introduced a new wrinkle on the superhero cape and spandex, with ordinary people on a present-day flight from London to Delhi becoming extraordinary in what would come to be called the First Wave. Each person on that flight, and on several other flights around the world, suddenly developed super powers based on what they wanted most in life. Some became villains, others heroes, and quite a few of them perished in the struggle for world domination that followed.
What if, instead of all-American journalist Clark Kent, Superman turns out to be an Indian Air Force pilot named Vir Singh? What if his archnemesis also happens to be his commanding officer? What’s in store for the world when passengers on a flight from London to Delhi suddenly start to present super powers? One of those passengers, a nerdy guy named Aman, has thoroughly studied the prophetic texts on this subject—namely, comic books—but he isn’t sure they give the right answers. It may not be as simple as powered people coming together and using their talents to serve mankind. As he struggles to understand the purpose for his newfound abilities, he begins to wonder whether that thinking will make him a superhero or a supervillain. Pointless as a city-wrecking knock-down-drag-out between indestructible heroes and villains may be, the survivors of British Airways Flight 142 seem to be choosing sides for just such a fight. Such is the frailty of human nature.
In the fourth “Repairman Jack” novel, the rakoshi are back. Those were the blue-skinned, yellow-eyed, man-eating demons from Indian prehistory, who terrorized Jack and his loved ones in “The Tomb”. Now the last rakosh—the one who left his claw-marks on Jack’s chest—has turned up in a freak show at the same quaint Long Island town where Jack battled the otherness in “Conspiracies”. Jack is torn between killing it, to make sure it can never hurt Gia and Vicky again, and leaving it alone to die in captivity. But his decision is complicated by an outbreak of extreme violence, the result of a designer drug that has become all the rage (ha, ha) in the streets of Manhattan.
Jack is still trying to live life his way—which means being non-existent in the eyes of the System. No criminal record. No tax filings. No social security number. Fake identities only. The rapid pace of technology both helps and hinders him in this quest. Email and voicemail are easier to deal with than having to check the answering machine in a dummy office. Credit cards, paid off promptly in the name of dead children, make it easier to go unnoticed as he buys supplies for his problem-fixing business. On the other hand, government databases make it harder to get away with all this victimless identity theft. It’s hard for a hands-on kind of guy to keep up with the fast-changing world, especially when (going by the books’ publication dates) last summer was 16 years ago. It’s hard to stay committed to a risky, often violent line of work when there’s a beautiful woman worrying about you and a sweet little girl counting on you. And that’s not even bringing up Jack’s dad, who wants him to move down to Florida and get a real job.