Author: Brian McClellan
Title: Uncanny Collateral
It’s been some time since I’ve read a really new genre book… Now, I finally did, but, despite it being from one of my favourite young writers, I’m not very happy about it.
Brian McClellan is one of our favourite new authors, his Powder Mage universe – one we greatly appreciate. Great ideas, great characters, constantly improving writing. I’m yet to read his second Powder Mage trilogy, but it’s only because I’m certain I’ll like it and I’m saving it for later.
When I read in his newsletter he wrote a short urban fantasy novel, I was intrigued and immediately bought an epub (pdf and mobi included in the package). I read the first chapter that very day, two further ones during the next couple of weeks, and finished this very short thing only recently, during a flight. Why? Well…
Alek Fitz is a reaper, a collection agent who works for the supernatural elements of the world, tracking down debtors and solving problems for clients as diverse as the Lords of Hell, vampires, Haitian loa, and goblins. He’s even worked for the Tooth Fairy on occasion. Based out of Cleveland, Ohio, Alek is the best in the game. As a literal slave to his job, he doesn’t have a choice.
The supposed elements of a successful urban fantasy are there, maybe too many of them. The protagonist is strong and sarcastic, and he has a funny minion. The duo is less annoying than the Iron Druid and his moronic dog – a point for McClellan. But, again, I cannot get into a new urban fantasy series. The only one to get through my defences was Mike Carey. Here, I fealt disappointment similar to that Bobby Dollar gave me. I like McClellan even more than I like Tad Williams, but both their attempts at urban fantasy failed to excite me.
Formulaic. Overly trope-ish. Technically proper, but lacking a spark of originality that would allow me to enjoy another repetition of well known themes. Maybe I’m just going through a phase, but my reading time is limited, and my average Goodreads score was getting too high 😉
‘Closest cop is half asleep, eating a donut three streets over from here. Oh, come on, I told her. That’s racist. Cops aren’t a race. Coppist? Is it coppist if he really is eating a donut? she asked.’
Another part I disliked were forced explanations, characters spending a lot of time talking about the peculiarities of this version of the supernatural to each other for the benefit of the reader. It just wasn’t seamless.
It’s not the McClellan I know and love… his Gunpowder pieces have better characters, orders of magnitude better worldbuilding, and he even wrote several great short forms, where he was able to expand his universe and entertain me greatly at the same time! This feels like something done quickly on the side.
The actual plot has some good moments, including nice fights. It’s still written by a pro. Just one not at his best.
I’m still going to read Gods of Blood and Powder though, that’s were McClellan shines 🙂