One morsel review: A fast-paced, dark adventure in a city ruled by a dark, faceless power. Claustrophobic setting, lot of action, characters with a lot of potential.
A dark force is pulling strings in Chciago City, unleashing hungry demons, making the gansgter war harsher. Discrimination laws are put into place, automatons patrol the streets. It’s like a war at home… and reporter Mitchell Brand knows war and its insanity very well.
A diner like many others in Clark Street, a lazy morning… and then the peppering of machineguns. It will become known as the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre, a levelling of counts between Capone’s Outfit and Moran’s Northside Gang. As police converge on the warehose with their airships, little camera-robots (the crabs) hurry to the scene to snap photo evidence.
This is not Prohibition Era Chicago as you know it.
I’ll tell the truth, the setting was what I enjoyed the most. Sure, this is recognizably Prohibition Chicago, with its gang wars and its jazz and its ethnic neighbourhoods, but this is also Chicago City, a place where airships sail the sky advertising news and goods and where automatons do the hard dock work. This is also a place where ghosts may appear to you out of a rip in the air and they will look like trumps on rickety bikes.
The ghosts is actually the element I liked the most, maybe because it’s more fantasy than SF and so it’s nearer to my heart. But the city as a whole is a fantastic place, with amazing settings, like the site of the World Fair – the White City -, with her skeletons of buildings and machinery looming in the night, which appears in the last segment of the story.
The story is told from a few POV, but the main ones are Mitchell Brand’s, reporter and WWI veteran with his own ghosts to cope with, and Emma Farnsworth’s, rich socialite with a rebel heart and a love affair with a black jazzman.
When the city is taken over by a dark power seemingly come from nowhere and that maybe doesn’t even belong to that world, these two characters will try – each their own way – to save a little part of world for themselves… and in doing so they end up helping lots of people.
It is an overall enjoyable story, although I liked the mystery part centred on Brand more than I liked the adventure part centred on Emma. Brand trying to solve the mystery of the power manifesting in Chicago City and the fantasy elements connected to it kept my interest throughout, where Emma and Eddie’s unrelenting race to reach New Orleans, especially in the central part of the novel, felt a bit repetitive and at time almost meandering. I admit I would have liked the two plots to intertwine in a stronger way, because I think one could have strengthened the other.
This might have possibly made the characters’ goals clearer too, because – again especially in the central part –thing happen so fast and one on tail of the other that sometimes I lost track of the line of characters’ action. But for the rest, the sheer adventure, the curiosity to see the mystery unfold, and not least a captivating style of writing, kept me happily reading.
This is the first in a planned trilogy. The author is now working on the second instalment, set this time in New Orleans. We’ve not heard the last of Emma and Brand.