Monday, August 15, 2016

The Man with the Golden Torc review


    Simon R. Green and I have a special connection. Well, no, actually we don't but it's weird how he seems to write the books I want to write and always has ideas I thought I came up with first. Either way, the Secret Histories series has been compared to Esoterrorism a few times so I thought I'd give it a try and see if it was any good. It is.

    Shaman Bond, the alias of Edwin Drood, is the greatest secret agent in the world. Sort of. Edwin Drood doesn't work for any government but his family of former druids turned mystics. They guard the world from the vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness. However, after a routine mission ends up with him witnessing the suicide of the world's most knowledgeable occultist, Edwin finds himself in hot water with the family. So much hot water that he may be forced to go rogue and seek the protection of the Drood family's worst enemies.

    The thing about Simon R. Green's work is it's weird and fun. If you need to know anything about his books, they're that. There's a scene where a bunch of UFOs, elves, and professional assassins attack our protagonist as he's carrying an ancient Stonehenge relic. There's a nymph flower elemental, the immortal embodiment of serial killing, a trepanning Nazi, and various other oddball concepts played entirely straight. Did I mention all of the Droods have magical golden Iron Man-esque armor?

    Yeah.

    Simon R. Green books are wall-to-wall goofiness and that's part of their charm. The thing is, despite the fact he throws everything and the kitchen sink at the reader, the books never treat their ludicrous situations as anything but serious. The willingness for the characters to internalize the weirdness of their setting helps lend itself an authenticity that makes it kinda-sorta grounded. You believe in the characters and their motivations even when they're visiting an extra-dimensional cat burglar.

    I liked Shaman Bond and Molly Metcalf, the agent and anarchist who form the crux of the book's narrative. They form a good pair of modern-day Avengers with a decent bit of chemistry combined with contrasting worldviews which aren't so different underneath the surface. It was perhaps a little too easy for these two to fall in love given their circumstances but I was rooting for them to so I can't exactly complain, can I?

    The Drood family, itself, is a engaging and weird antagonist. A massive conspiracy of scientists, magician, and magically-empowered knights which is too stuck in a rut to really care whether it's serving the side or good or evil. All of us know something of family pressure and it's interesting to have the living embodiment of that as your foe. The family which will control everything in your life from beginning to end while insisting it is all for your good is a bigger nightmare to me than Cthulhu.

    I'm also a fan of Manifest Destiny as an enemy. In a world of the supernatural, it's very likely you'd have people who'd want everything to be safe and sane as well as scientific. Unfortunately, Manifest Destiny is unable to keep its truly vile elements under control as one you have a cause, it's all too easy to assume everyone who opposes it is evil. There's a nice bit of foreshadowing with one of the characters we later learn is a member being described in decidedly Nazi terms.

    The book is one long chase sequence really with our heroes following a lead, finding it doesn't answer their questions, then getting tracked down by their enemies. This isn't bad because it provides the book with pretty much cover-to-cover action. In addition to Edwin punching out Fantasy Nazis and monsters, we also get to see Molly make frequent imaginative use of her powers. The book really feels like a text-based comic book and that's pretty high praise given what I primarily review on this site.

    In conclusion, The Man with the Golden Torc is a fun little bit of urban fantasy which is actually fairly conclusive in its ending. While there are many books behind it, I think it functions as a stand-alone if you're looking for a fast read. It may be too over-the-top for some but I think it's great for those who don't take their fantasy too seriously.

9/10

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