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Shelf Indulgence

Books. Reviews.

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Aftermath
Chuck Wendig
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Samuel R. Delany
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Charles L. Grant

Burn Me Deadly

Burn Me Deadly  - Alex Bledsoe The Sword-Edged Blonde, the first in Bledsoe's series of hard-boiled fantasy detective novels, was a fun read, in part because the meshing of the two genres gave the book the feel of an homage without it being a parody. Bledsoe did a great job of blending the two genres, from the office with the seating area over a seedy bar, to the cache of guns ... er, swords that our hero uses, down to the wise-cracking comments that he makes to those around him. I haven't read a lot of noir crime fiction, but I know enough about the tropes to know when to recognize them, and the way that Bledsoe translated those tropes into fantasy were effective, and interesting.

The thing is, all those tropes are cliches, and after reading one book, fresh ideas like this one become stale, or at worst, cliches, and the stories start to feel more like parodies. I know this is just the second book in the series, but as I write this, I've begun reading the third book, and I'm definitely seeing the pattern. A. Lee Martinez has parodied a lot of genres with his books, and while some parts of his stories are cliches, they're also silly and laughable, so it's easier to overlook. The Eddie LaCrosse books seem to take themselves pretty seriously, and it's hard not to be put off by these characteristics.

In addition, the series continues to have a slightly denigrating look at women (which I'll grant could be another characteristic of these types of detective stories, even though it's something that doesn't translate well to modern fiction), where they are all referred to -- and identified by -- how attractive they are, even if they're intended to be strong characters. Also, the men are either square-jawed goons or small-bodied milquetoasts, and how the women relate to the men depends on which one of those two descriptions they fit. "Progressive" isn't a word I would use to describe these novels is what I'm saying.

Another issue I'm seeing with the series is that Eddie, the central character and narrator of the stories, feels insincere to me. It's not that I feel like he's lying, or that he's unreliable; there's just something about his character that makes him less than genuine. In Burn Me Deadly, he's faced with the idea that dragons are real (a conclusion that was broadcast by his continuing denying of their existence), and it's brushed aside and accepted within the span of a few sentences. There was no real shock or revelation associated with it, just a "Hey, how about that? They are real! Now back to the story" sort of moment, instead of making that reveal a part of the story. I wanted a little more out of that scene to make it feel more real.

For all their foibles, though, the stories are entertaining, readable, and compelling, which are what good stories should be. Burn Me Deadly starts off cold, with the characterization coming after a gripping opening (which, unfortunately, starts with a semi-naked woman), and the story develops piecemeal as Eddie gets more and more evidence relating to his investigation. There's a palpable buildup that teases the reader forward, and after I passed the 1/3 mark of the novel, I knew I was in it for the long haul.

So, the books aren't perfect, but they're entertaining and enjoyable, so long as you don't think too hard about them. They're good beach reads, and what I don't like about the books isn't enough to keep me from reading the rest of them.