Thursday, August 02, 2012

No Hero - Jonathan Wood

Jonathan Wood has come up with a secret government department that protects the UK from monsters story that might be what you get if you crossed Caballistics, Inc with Hellboy and only gave them the budget of the unit in New Tricks or Taggart. Plus a 15% off frequent buyers card for all Duracell purchases. So if you like that sort of thing (or Torchwood, Primeval, et. al) then this book is definitely for you. A senior police detective and his offsider come across a murder - the only problem is the sword wielding maniac woman they have tracked down is still around, and gives said detective a torso piercing in extremely short order. The woman he doesn't know that comes to visit him in hospital turns out to not actually be a doctor as he thinks but the head of MI37. Which seems a bit odd, given that as far as anyone is aware, they only go up to 6. Their job? Dealing with the supernatural terrors - including powerful interdimensional Lovecraftian horrors, otherwise called The Progeny. Shaw wants him because she has a magic nerd academic, a goth research geek and the aforementioned superhuman killing machine, and could use someone level headed that knows how to handle an investigation. He has also managed to not get killed yet, despite an encounter. So you have one ordinary average competent plod, Detective Wallace who is now rather freaked out about his new employment. Throw him into a save the universe situation with little background, briefing or time to get one and you can assume that given the Lovecraftian many-angles things are going to get nasty. The line that sold this to me is 'What would Kurt Russell Do?' When actually in the field what tends to race through his brain is 80s action movies, as per the opening paragraphs: "It’s the pretty blonde that completes the scene. No question. Pressed up against the side of a building? Check. Life-and-death situation? Check. Significantly more sweat running down my back than really seems appropriate? Big check for that one. And yes, against all likelihood, there’s a pretty blonde by my side. Check. Because now, after years of paperwork, after years of trawling through minutia, police work is finally fulfilling the promise Tango and Cash made to my impressionable teenage self. It is time for action. Except that, in the heat of the moment, my heart beating a sharp tattoo against my ribcage, I rather wish that Kurt Russell had taken the time to turn to the camera and explain the sheer bowel-loosening terror involved in doing this sort of thing. Because right now, even with a killer so close, even with a life on the line, paperwork has never seemed so appealing." There's a couple of annoying things like the painful American insistence on changing things to be Americanised at times. For an English book set in the UK talking about 'bangs' for example for a fringe of hair knocks you out of believing you are reading about the UK. It may not for yank readers perhaps, but how many of Night Shade's buyers readers are dumb enough not to know this? The webscriptions book itself is much higher quality than your useful major publishing effort. It has a cover, it works, it is multi-format and DRM-free. Also appears to be free of the usual typos and errors you find in those these days with all their cutbacks. So a good job there, editingwise. Distractions like that aside, the writer has done his job well in that the book hooks you, and maintains a consistent and actually increasingly interesting story throughout where you definitely are not sure what is going to happen. If he writes a sequel, I can't wait to see how he moves through the Kurt Russell oeuvre of the nineties and considers how Tombstone can help him with things from Hell or Stargate with horrors from the depth of space. 4 out of 5