Steampunk-ish: Red Hot Steele

Courtesy of goodreads.comSo this book Red Hot Steele by Alex Berg came up when I looked for a new steampunk novel  in Amazon. Only thing is…it isn’t really steampunk. Its more like…an Edwardian pulp mystery. Its a bit more Dashiell Hammet than Gail Carriger.  This is a first person novel told from the perspective of Detective Jake Daggers. Really. That’s his name. And he seems to be every stereotypical gumshoe rolled into one. He’s a large, misogynistic detective in New York that eats poorly, is divorced and not a good dad.

At least I think its New York. The world building in this book is almost non-existent. Magic/the supernatural seems to be known and somewhat accepted in this world, as evidenced by the fact that Detective Daggers’ new partner is a young female half-elf by the name of Shay Steele. Yes, really. Despite her name, she’s actually the most interesting character in the book. She supposedly has some supernatural talent for visions which lands her on the police force. As women are not police in this time/world, her visions are the only way she can gain detective status.

The story itself is a regular old murder/con double-header with a sprinkling of magic. It wasn’t really all that spectacular a story and I figured out the whodunit pretty quickly. It could have been an acceptable book if there were more world building but seriously, the most thought I felt was put into it was the fact that horses weren’t used in the city anymore because of all the droppings so therefore rickshaws were the mode of transportation for those who could afford such things. I thought that was an interesting concept but it was the only thing that put any sort of time-frame on this story.

There was none of the usual steampunk trappings of steam powered everything, gadgets, brass, and general sense of elegance. I was overall disappointed with this book and grateful I got it on sale for about 4 bucks. I don’t see myself getting the next book in the series. If you’re a fan of the old Sam Spade/Big Sleep style mysteries, this might be a good book for you. If you are more a steampunk person or an urban fantasy person, I’d stay away. There just isn’t enough of either genre in this to satisfy.  Rating: C-

Sandman Slim

So I just picked up the new Sandman Slim novel Aloha From Hell and I realized that I didn’t review the last two books. The books are written by Richard Kadfrey and are sort of an old fashioned pulp mystery mixed with urban fantasy. The first novel was Sandman Slim (surprising, I know).

Sandman Slim’s name is James Stark. He doesn’t particularly like either moniker. Mostly he gets called Stark. You don’t really want to like him. He murders, he tortures, he cusses. He’s a thief. And he can walk through shadows and do magic. Stark has spent the last decade or so in Hell. And that isn’t a metaphor. He was the only living human in the whole of Hell. And he was the favored toy/gladiator of the Hellions, right up to Lucifer himself. When you’re immortal, new things are always fun.

We’re introduced to Stark as he wakes up in a flaming garbage pile in LA. This might be a bit redundant. 😉 His first act is to roll a guy for his clothes and money. The only thing on his mind is to kill the men who sent him down in the first place, people he’d once considered friends. In the mean time, he manages to pick up some new friends that include a 200 year old alchemist, a young woman working the counter at a video store, an archangel masquerading as a doctor and his assistant, a Jade named Candy. Jades are  a cross between vampires and spiders. They liquify the innards of their victims and suck it up.

His main focus is a man named Mason, the one who was personally responsible for sending Stark to Hell in the first place. The only problem is getting to him. He’s rich, he’s magically powerful and he’s more than slightly psychotic and paranoid. Not to mention the thug he has protecting him. Stark is definitely an anti-hero, but he’s good at it.

If you like darker, grittier books, this is one you should definitely pick up. Rating: A+