[Review] Magic, drugs and geekyness: Flex.

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Title: Flex
Author: Ferrett Steinmetz
Source: Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
Release date: 3 March 2015
Tl;dr: The power of papers vs. the power of old.

Add it to your goodreads

This book made me miss almost my tube-stop several times. This is high praise from a public transport veteran like me (even when I fall asleep, I wake a bit before reaching my destination). The story is about Paul, an insurance agent/former cop, who finds people who have a certain magic ability that changes the fabric of the universe: they can do ‘mancy. Mancers (the people the can do ‘mancy) are capable of making a certain drug (flex), but using flex (or ‘mancy itself) always leads to the universe wanting to put things into balance again, which leads to disaster (flux). And that disaster, that is of course something the insurance company might have to pay for, hence the need for someone like Paul. Then disaster (or well, flux) strikes, Paul discovers this new side of himself, and needs to rescue the world (or at least his daughter). This sounds way too much like a standard superhero movie, which this isn’t.

Paul is a likeable protagonist. He is divorced, has a lovely kid (who is portrayed quite realistically; and showing realistic 6-year-olds is hard), a less likeable ex-wife, and an awesome kick-ass female friend, who loves videogames, is promiscuous and geeky. He’s the best at what he does, but also has flaws. Yay for realism. The world is presented as in the here and now, except that Europe is… well… gone. Due to this new magic. I don’t want to spoil stuff (because you all should read this book when it comes out!), but this book gave me a whole new respect for bureaucracy and rules. The concept of the magic was quite refreshing and interesting, especially because it came in so many forms. The same for the antagonist: they are an interesting piece of work. I felt influences of Neil Stephenson and William Gibson in the book every once in a while.

The main critique I have of this book, is mostly one of editing, and less of the story or the writing in itself. I am a firm proponent of “show, don’t tell” in books, and I don’t need someone to tell me things twice. This happens every once in a while; there are sentences that could be scrapped completely and it would not change a thing (except make the reader feel less guided by the hand, which would be a good thing). Also, some characters (like Kit, Paul’s boss) get a sudden introduction that seems too fabricated (which made seem like a weird comment, since the whole story is fabricated, but since most of the things seem quite realistic, stuff like that jumps out more). Goodreads suggested to me that a sequel might be out in October this year, and I hope it’s not too late to “fix” that for part 2.

But, because of the awesomeness of the story, the lovability and realism of the characters, and the geeky references, this can all be forgiven. Also, the author is quite a cool guy. This doesn’t influence my opinion of his book, but it needed saying anyway. So, wait for March 3, and then go out and get yourself this new read!

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