by Aaron Allston
Baen, pb, 337 pages, $5.99
This is a dark, well-deserved tribute to Kenneth Robeson’s Doc Savage. Allston’s novel is the sort of book in which you know that some of the major characters are not going to live to the end of the work–but he’s a good enough writer to avoid tipping his hand about who is doomed
In many ways, the plot is cinematic. Harris Greene is the sort of hero that populates most of the late-night cable TV action film staples. He is a former Olympic kickboxer whose career is failing. Early in the novel both his girlfriend and his manager dump him. He’s a nice guy, but he’s not doing a great job of fitting into adulthood and the real world.
Luckily for him, he stumbles onto a plot to destroy the known universe. In the process of foiling a dastardly kidnapping of his now ex-girlfriend, Greene finds himself springboarded into an odd, art-deco sort of faerie world, closely connected to ours. The world of faerie, it seems, has continued to grow and change along with our world over the years–one of the most satisfying and most imaginative aspects of the book. While in this magical realm, Greene finds himself working with the legendary Doc Sidhe and his associates, who hope to stop the fiendish, universe-threatening plot hatched by the kidnappers.
One of Allston’s strengths is that he is able to make figures larger than life without making them seem superhuman. The book is filled with evil, but much of what appears to be good is actually shaded somewhat. Nobody’s motives are quite as pure as in the cartoons, and many of the heroic figures seem to have hidden agendas. At the same time, his characters are generally sympathetic, for all their quirks. The villains are sufficiently villainous, the heroes are moody and troubled–but somehow it all comes off as tribute rather than cliché. This may not be a great book, but it certainly is an enjoyable one–with all the guilty pleasure of a well-choreographed action film that doesn’t give you time to think about the holes in the plot.
First appeared in Horror magazine, April 1994.
Copyright © 1994 by Leigh Grossman