Thursday, October 20, 2016

Flotsam Prison Blues (Technomancer 2#) review


    Flotsam Prison Blues is the second novel in the Technomancer series by Michael Gibson. I enjoyed the first one tremendously, so much so I wrote the Foreword for it. It's a mixture of action, comedy, and urban fantasy which I heartily recommend.

    The premise of the Technomancer series is it's 175 years after the Biblical Armageddon. After an attempt by a cyberpunk corporation to clone Jesus, God has abandoned the Earth and allowed demons to conquer Creation. This proved to be more difficult for the Infernal than they expected since humanity had the advantage of technology. Eventually, the demons won but the resulting world was one of cyberpunk technology mixed with a feudal despotism.

    One particular human who is harder to kill than most is Salem, a 200-year-old Lightrunner (which is perhaps a little too similar to Shadowrunner), who was the only human being equipped with nanotechnological enhancements before the world ended. In this volume, he's managed to successfully convince the demonic hierarchy to ignore the fact he killed one of their princes last book but the price is having to pay an exorbitant tax for the humans who live on his land. Unfortunately, Salem can't quite afford said tax and he ends up getting thrown in the worst prison in a world ruled by Hell.

    The book is an interesting series of misadventures from our protagonist as he struggles to deal with a world where absolutely everyone is trying to betray everyone else. Salem is a non-stop source of pop culture quips, much like Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy. I felt it was one of the weaker elements of the book that Salem never quite seemed to be touched by all the horror around him and I'm pleased to say the protagonist gets a lot more development in this book.

    We get a glimpse into Salem's backstory and the kind of terrible secrets which have driven him to try and pretend to be a goofball rather than the 200-year-old man he is. The fact he used to be a very different person adds layers to his character and opens up many new avenues of exploration in future volumes. We get to see some truly interesting scenes where he deals with the fact humanity is fighting its way to extinction in the two wars against demonkind. When surrender to evil is the only hope for humanity to survive.

    The supporting cast continues to grow with Viking gods, succubi, fallen angel wardens, and a Nephilim psychopath who makes the prison run at statistically maximized despair-inducing efficiency. Not all of the characters make it to the end but the sheer number of weirdos Michael Gibson has created for this world deserves a reward of some kind. They are all extremely well developed and draw from multiple mythological sources.

    The primary flaws with the novel is it's a little too weird to always take seriously even when it's going for poignancy. Michael Gibson has a Joss Whedon-esque quality of veering from the silly to the soul-rending in one paragraph but doesn't quite have the same level of timing. Likewise, I was very annoyed with the causal murder of a certain character. Despite this, I still enjoyed the novel greatly.

    My favorite part of the book is the section set in Flotsam Prison. Seeing Salem so helpless and having to make alliances with the scum of a world ruled by hell is very entertaining. I also loved the sections which deal with Salem's only known romance. A hero is never more interesting than when he's trapped or outmatched and that certainly is the case here.

    As mentioned, this is primarily a humor book despite its abundance of action. That doesn't mean the book doesn't get dark, even very dark. There's torture, flashbacks to the near-genocide of humanity, and also periods where Salem isn't all that nice of a person. This peculiar cocktail is where the book is at its best, though.

     In conclusion, Flotsam Prison Blues is an entertaining oddball fantasy and science fiction-themed sci-fi novel. It's very close to the Dresden Files and Laundry Files in terms of humor with oddball characters, movie references, and lots of interesting world-building. If that's your thing, and why should it not be, this is a book to check out.

9/10

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