Sunday, December 27, 2015

Review: A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse (Remy Chandler Series #1) by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Audio book
I'm still searching for another series to scratch the itch I currently have, the hard-boiled noir urban fantasy which maybe plays with religious tropes of various kinds and might have an anti-heroish main character.  This book wasn't that.  It was something else.

First, the reading.  Luke Daniels is one of my favorite readers, with a nimble voice and a talent for accents.  This time, not so much.  His reading was absolutely stiff, and most of his voices were just growly.  Of course, that colors the story itself.

The story itself didn't play fair.  It danced hard on my emotional buttons -- it's rare that I read a book in this genre and have tears running down my face.  More than once.  Too many times, really, but that wasn't a negative.  Sniegoski knows how to hit emotional beats.  Arm those beats with a Black Labrador dog, and I stand no chance.  Dirty pool, as my dad would say.  The plot was pretty strong, and while there were a few dangling threads here and there, it wound up fairly well.  Again, of course, the hero saves the world -- this time from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and a missing Angel of Death (Echoes of Kadrey's Killing Pretty here, although I think this was published much earlier, so maybe it's Kadrey's book that is the echo).  The humor was gentle and the tension fairly mild but consistent.

Unusual for this genre, the story is told in third person limited, with a couple of jaunts to see things from other characters.  Most stories like this are in first person.  I had to adjust my thinking for that. Characters were full and easy to separate, for the most part.  Of course, because Remy is a hero instead of an anti-hero, I had no trouble liking him and sympathizing with him.

My one solid complaint is the slow, almost languorous, fight/action scenes.  The action was going on, but the author used lots of long, detailed, descriptive sentences to narrate it.  One in particular struck me, when a character pulled a knife from a pocked in his jacket underneath a coat (the original was more descriptive).  Why the clothing detail?  Why couldn't he just pull a knife and stick it into something or someone? The extra detail was just so much molasses poured onto what should have been a sharp, tight, forward pressing scene.  This happened in every action sequence, almost like the author was bubble wrapping the sharp edges.  He has scary stuff going on, but he doesn't use his talent for hitting emotional buttons once the fists start flying.  He seems to be pulling back, placing distance between the mean stuff and the reader.  This did not work for me.  It drained the tension right out of everything.  I couldn't even pretend not to know how things would end.

Remy Chandler isn't a hard boiled, edgy main character.  He's a hero without doubt, with few shades of grey making him up.  The blackest thing about him is his dog, Marlowe, and Marlowe is a black Lab (and mostly comic relief/dependent character emotional button).  The world is not nuanced enough for my tastes.  It's a perfectly good world, but I don't know really all that much about it, and I am not invested in it.

I guess this is a case of another book I liked enough to finish, but not so much to heartily recommend.  I'm still debating if I want to continue the series, to see how the next one works now that the baseline is set.  Or I might go on to something else for a while.  I'm still itchy.

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