Brian McClellan, Uncanny Collateral (2019)

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Author: Brian McClellan

Title: Uncanny Collateral

Format: epub

Pages: 96

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.’

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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 🙂

Score: 5/10

15 thoughts on “Brian McClellan, Uncanny Collateral (2019)

  1. This is for all those pathetic people who think that urban fantasy IS fantasy. If I didn’t have a toe in the Urban Fantasy waters myself, I’d shoehorn all fans of UF right in with Romance readers.

    As for McClellan, I haven’t even read his short Powder Mage stories and I doubt I ever will unless he releases them all as a book. I can’t stand trying to track down “free” stories from an author only to have to jump through 17bajillion different websites or hoops or whatever.

    Not that I’m grumpy at the moment or anything 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, I love Butcher, and really like a few others, but I’m a bit tired with this subgenre, which probably added to my disappointment. Bad urban fantasy shares many problems with poor romance, it’s called paranormal romance 😉
      McClellan’s powder mage short stories are cool & add much to the universe, so when you have a chance look them up 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, meh. How am I supposed to read this now?? You gave it a 5/10, that must be one of your lowest ratings to date! 😉

    But seriously, this does not sound promising at all. I really like UF, there are some pretty solid books out there, and more than one good series, but it seems to be a very tricky subgenre to write in: people tend to think UF is an easy thing to write, because you just mix a bit of romance, a bit of noir, and add some trolls or elves or something, and you have a great book. NO. It’s exactly like with every other good book in every other genre. Doing by the numbers will only get you so far, and if you want to make a good book, you simply need to write a decent story.

    The end of my short rant 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. You’re totally right, and it’s a pity McClellan fell into that trap.
      I gave it 5, because it’s still not terrible, just definitely not something for me at the moment. Genre afficionados might enjoy it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure his fantasy will be as good as ever 🙂
      Its Wendig? I kinda hated Blackbirds, so I’ll be cautious, but I’ll keep that in mind for when I crave UF next 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I really like his fantasy short stories, I think UF is a new genre for him and he didn’t appreciate the challenges enough…
      Me, I loved the first trilogy, so if the next one is even better – I’m in for a treat 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed his Powder Mage stuff, so I think I may give this one a miss so as not to spoil that love I have for his work.

    Urban Fantasy is an iffy thing for me. I find myself enjoying it less and less these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh man, I feel your pain throughout this post. Loving an author so much that when you’re in front of something this bad, you’re in denial and look forward to moving on hahaha

    I have the second book of his Gods of Blood and Powder series queued up for this summer before the third one comes out, and I honestly can’t wait. I’ll probably then jump back to his first trilogy.

    Thanks for sharing this review though. I’ll probably leave it at the bottom of my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

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