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Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

May 31, 2014 4 comments

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

As I mentioned in an earlier review, I’ve decided to have a proper look at Seanan McGuire (and that was before one of the latest books was shortlisted for a major award). At the urging of one of my readers, I’m going back to Discount Armageddon (DAW, 2012) and this first in the InCryptid series proves to be a good steer. At this point I need to wander slightly off the beaten track to think about why I tend to find urban fantasy such an unsatisfying subgenre. The answer, in part, is that the balance of the books tends to blur between conventional fantasy and romance. In itself, this is not a problem. I have no sensibilities to offend when it comes to different races or genders engaging in all the usual sexual activities and then some I might not have thought of (although there are few of those left after a long lifetime). Characters in books are free to do many of the things we might balk at, or find physically impossible, in the real world. That’s part of the fun of being a creative writer. But this subgenre has been tinged by the brush of romance so, to pander to a niche in the market not used to full-bore fantasy, particularly of the darker variety, the standard fantasy tropes are rather defanged and encouraged into the appropriate gender roles as the love interests. While this pandering may encourage sales to younger readers and women coming from the pure romance sector, it does nothing for older males like myself.

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

So as you start off in this series, we take as read there are lots of real animals out there that we foolish humans think are pure mythology. Yes, there really are dragons and unicorns (well, maybe). The problem is the religiously fanatical Covenant of St George. The mission they have chosen to accept is the extermination of all the animals that God neglected to save on the Ark. So if anything survived the flood, that was against God’s wishes and the Covenant could go round the countryside slaying dragons for all they were worth because that was doing God’s work. One small group splintered from the Covenant and they have set themselves up as protectors of all the strange creatures that don’t disrupt the ecosystem, i.e. start killing humans. After several generations, we now come to modern times with the young Verity Price making a name for herself as protector of Manhattan, put-upon waitress at a fairly seedy strip joint, and professional ballroom champion wannabe. Everything is going along moderately peacefully until the required sex interest from the Covenant arrives to do a survey. If he finds an infestation of mythological creatures, he’s required to call in the troops for a purge.

Why then am I more positively inclined to this book? Surely I’ve just described a set-up for the usual dismal swamp of urban fantasies. Well, we have to start with the book having a sense of humour. The majority of these books take themselves so seriously, they sag under the portentous certainty something terrible is likely to happen (leaving us deeply disappointed when we turn the pages). But this book is ultimately about sex, and the natural drive to get some and enjoy it. How can a reader not be beguiled by the idea of a group of mice announcing a religious festival which requires Verity to kiss the next man to walk through the door. Perhaps more importantly, when we do get some sex scenes, they are proper sex and not some chaste peck on the cheek. Yes, there are the usual complications of a couple with completely different approaches to the world who must find sufficient mutual tolerance to allow the coupling to occur. But this is just good fun. He’s just so straight-laced and she so, well, different. It’s all rather unlikely in an enjoyable way. For all we are thrust deep into a covert world of different beasties and bogeys, all the characters and “animals” emerge as strangely plausible. Even when we get into telepathy, the explanation for the evolution of the ability actually makes sense. So this is weird in every sense of the word. Discount Armageddon proves to have an exuberance which converted me to the cause. Indeed, that’s what makes the climax rather more exciting than usual. The bad guys are actually a real threat and are on the verge of triggering what might be a fairly devastating event. So the book nicely does go quite dark with many characters dying or suffering quite serious injury. This is not to say the book has any claim to greatness. It has flaws, e.g. it seems there are multiple dimensions including a literal version of Hell in which one of the family may be trapped (this seems counter to the general scientific approach to classifying the different species albeit not inconsistent with a “fantasy” world in which magic works). But for the most part, this is an unpretentious book that’s great fun to read and will not offend those of a male persuasion who like their fantasy relatively undiluted.

For reviews of the books written as Mira Grant, see:
Blackout
Deadline
Feed
Parasite
and written by Seanan McGuire:
Chimes at Midnight
Half-off Ragnarok.

Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire

April 11, 2014 11 comments

Seanan McGuire Chimes at Midnight

Well, here we continue on this minor diversion from the norm. For all it’s faults, I enjoyed the Newsflesh trilogy Mira Grant and thought it would be interesting to look at the author writing under her own name. Now I appreciate this is taking a risk on two counts. The first is the reason why authors choose to write under a pseudonym. They already have a good brand name for a particular type of fiction. The new work will not fit into their existing fan base’s expectations. So it must be hidden (until someone leaks the secret identity). The second is that I’m coming into an existing series which is never a good thing.

Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire (DAW, 2013) is the seventh in the October Daye urban fantasy series. This time round, we’re into the forbidden fruit of the Goblin variety, a drug that’s addictive and ultimately deadly to changelings, but merely a pleasant high for full-blooded fae. The Queen of the Mists is the pusher. Yes, it comes over as a bit of a shocker to discover a leader can stoop so low but, as the gang boss says, she needs the money and the fact a few of the changelings die is nothing to worry about. Obviously, this lack of emotion is not terribly startling. The fae are notorious for their amorality. Only their half-breed children and a few on the margins have anything approaching a conscience. It seems October, Toby to her friends, is one of these changelings, a child of a fae and a human. When she innocently complains to the Queen that someone is pushing this deadly drug, she’s given three days to get out of Dodge (well, San Francisco actually). This provokes the natural plot response. When the Luidaeg tips her off that the Queen’s right to the throne was less than solid, the hunt is on to find the rightful heir. What’s a little treason between old enemies.

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

Pausing for a moment, this is a hack plot idea. The Queen is an all-round evil person in charge of this small kingdom and, just when she really begins to go beyond the pale, our hero experiences the ultimate coincidence effect. The first person she talks to after being banished just happens to know the Queen is an unlawful usurper of the throne. Wow, is that a convenient piece of information, or what? And within a few more pages, our hero has tracked down the real heiress who’s been hidden away for years without anyone being able to find her. Wow, it that ever evidence the girl guide’s badge for tracking really does prove ability to find stuff and people? To say this is contrived and contorted would be an understatement.

So with Quentin, a teenage Daoine Sidhe courtier from Shadowed Hills, proving to have more maturity than previously suspected, and other minions in tow, it’s moderately action-packed as we build on the coincidences to get to the solution at the end. Because this is urban fantasy, there’s considerable focus on our hero’s relationship with Tybalt, King of Cats. Naturally, they go through the emotional wringer and emerge all the stronger for it. Does this mean the book is a waste of time? In part, yes. But despite the morass of detail about fairy lore and genealogy, there’s interest in this as an exploration of the nature of identity. As a changeling, Toby is powerless as a human and potentially powerful as a fae. The problem, as always in these situations, is to get the balance right between the two parts to give herself enough access to the magic without sacrificing her humanity.

The trigger for a more serious thread in the book is the decision of the Queen to expose our hero to the goblin fruit. As the crack cocaine of drugs, the effect on a changeling is to induce a shift to human where the effect is more pleasurable. Unfortunately, this loses the immortality feature that comes with the fairy genes: hence the high death rate. So our hero loses most of her powers and almost reverts to human. Not surprisingly, this undermines her confidence in herself as a partner to Tybalt. She’s not sure he’ll still love her. It also creates problems on how to stay alive and how to fight the evil Queen and her minions as a powerless human. I thought the introduction of a highly addictive drug was a brave ploy. It could have provided a real dynamic to the narrative as she goes cold turkey. Unfortunately, the whole situation is managed and then resolved just a little too easily. Yes, there has to be a big fight, but the physical and psychological stress of having to deal with the addiction is somewhat glossed over. The gritty reality of dealing with addiction would not really fit into an urban fantasy format. That said, this is not a completely awful book about fairies and the other species that interact to form the fae as a group of kingdoms or fiefdoms. The romance does deal with the uncertainties of love in a difficult situation. So, in my usual dismissive and patronising male voice, I can say Chimes at Midnight is quite good for an urban fantasy.

For reviews of the books written as Mira Grant, see:
Blackout
Deadline
Feed
Parasite
and as written by Seanan McGuire:
Discount Armageddon
Half-off Ragnarok.

Half-off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

April 10, 2014 5 comments

Half-Off-Ragnarok-InCryptid--538638-9f2766385cef07881f7a

Curiosity, it’s said, killed the cat. For whatever reason, it seems the cat has long had a reputation for exploring places where hidden dangers lurk to catch out the unwary with both Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare referring to this species trait. Of course, it’s easy to anthropomorphise and attribute human abilities to a wide range of animals who seem to share our interest in exploring the unknown, adding knowledge where there are gaps. But, for whatever reason, it’s obviously been a useful evolutionary characteristic. Just think, we’ve been able to develop useful things like the sharpened stick with which to defend ourselves and the cellphone to call for help when the stick breaks off as it hits the scales of the supernatural beast attacking us.

So here I am doing a small diversion from the reviewing path to have a look at Seanan McGuire writing under her own name rather than as Mira Grant. I’m starting with Half-off Ragnarok (DAW, 2014) which is the third InCryptid novel. I’ve not really read enough urban fantasy to be able to judge whether it’s unusual for a book in this subgenre, written by a woman, to feature a first-person male protagonist. So far, it’s been my experience the heroes tend to be female and quickly into romance mode when something hunky this way comes. This hero is somewhat geeky and, for all he’s on the verge of being maimed or eaten by various beasties, not terribly interested in females of his own species. This is not to say there have not been strong female characters in the two earlier books. They featured our hero’s sister, Verity Price. It’s just our hero has not yet been tempted romantically.

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

I’m therefore timing my dive into McGuire waters perfectly as our family devoted to cryptozoology briefly sequesters Verity away while she recovers from her exertions in the first two books. This leaves us with her brother, Alexander, who’s in deepest Ohio at the West Columbus Zoo. During the day, he runs the reptile house. The rest of the time is spent with the creatures of myth whose existence science has not yet come around to accepting. Life is relatively normal until the arrival of Shelby, an Australian specialist in big cats. Now there’s a crack in our hero’s armour to admit the possibility of amour. Except it’s a bit difficult to explain why she can’t always come with him, or even meet with his grandparents. She might be good with tigers and other large felines, but facing a gorgon might be disconcerting. You see, there always have to be reasons why the path of true love never can run smoothly.

So the relatively good news is that this is urban fantasy with a gentle sense of humour. Yes, there are murders, people are threatened, exposed to general danger, locked in burning buildings, stabbed, and so on. But the way in which it’s written manages to avoid this becoming a grim affair. For all bad stuff happens, there’s always the chance for a smile (albeit many of the jokes are at the expense of stereotypical assumptions about Australia and its women). This takes us out of the rut of urban fantasy and paranormal romance which tend to be rather po-faced about anything other than the romantic elements. There’s also a reasonable amount of characterisation which rings true, both among the humans and the mythological species around them. Balancing the need for privacy — it would be somewhat dangerous if humans were to discover you were actually a gorgon — against the need to earn enough money to maintain a lifestyle, is always going to be a challenge. So some degree of paranoia is understandable. The Price family is also under threat from the Covenant, an organisation with a rather final solution to the cryptid problem. So all the main characters have a reason for keeping a low profile. Except, of course, when a human turns up with petrifaction as the cause of death, there’s interest from the police which could prove a problem. I also quite like the departure from the clichéd norms of vampires, werethingies and fairies. There’s a reasonable amount of invention as to the different species on display and how they relate to each other.

That said, the plot hangs on an outrageous coincidence — not unlike many other books, I know — and although Shelby does prove moderately tough and adaptable, she’s really there just to be a helpful sidekick, i.e. as someone to be “loved” and rescued when the need arises. From a technical point of view, her presence is also expedient because, as an Australian, it allows our hero to infodump about local American species in his explanations to her. Although she’s less prominent, I thought Dee, the gorgon, was a more rounded character. It’s just she’s already married and so not available to our hero. I’m also less than convinced about the killer’s motives. While accepting he, she or it is dangerous and responsible for human, and some animal and bird, deaths, there’s considerable lack of clarity. The old, “you can’t expect killers to be terribly rational” schtick is getting frayed round the edges. This plot could have been better designed to give the killer a more coherent and plausible reason for the deaths. So, on balance, Half-off Ragnarok is slightly above average for urban fantasy but, in real terms, that’s not saying anything very complimentary.

For reviews of the books written as Mira Grant, see:
Blackout
Deadline
Feed
Parasite
and written as Seanan McGuire:
Chimes at Midnight
Discount Armageddon.

Blackout by Mira Grant

March 13, 2013 1 comment

Mira Grant Blackout

As an opening paragraph, I’m forced into a brief consideration of what constitutes a coincidence. At its simplest level, this is two, or sometimes three, events which happen more or less at the same time. Some external observers believe the timing of the occurrences indicates a causal relationship. But, against objective criteria, there’s nothing to actually link the two or three events together. The outside observer is making connections where none exist. The magic word is synchronicity — the magic coming from Police who wrote a song about it, “Effect without cause, Subatomic laws, scientific pause”. This is not a sign I’m desperate to pad out this review. It’s just a coincidence the forces of law and order chose to write lyrics about things that happen at the same time.

For authors, everything is under control in the worlds they create. They can write whatever they like. So when some choose to juxtapose two events, this is not coincidence. This is deliberate plotting. In most cases, the temptation to see a connection is easily resisted. We readers have hundred of t-shirts and know when the author has made a forgivable misjudgment. But the entire plot of Blackout by Mira Grant (pseudonym of Seanan McGuire) (Orbit, 2012) (Book III of the Newsflesh Trilogy) depends on a particularly outrageous coincidence. Indeed so outrageous is this coincidence that it somewhat spoils what would otherwise have been considered a worthy ending to a good trilogy. Why is it so outrageous? Because it’s unnecessary! The author has very carefully built up the credibility of an internal government challenge to the CDC. There’s no reason why this group could not have extracted Georgia without the need for this “spontaneous” meeting in a corridor followed by the appropriate explosions.

Mira Grant passing herself off as Seanan McGuire

Mira Grant passing herself off as Seanan McGuire

Having got that off my chest, what about the rest of the book? As an idea, I think the trilogy is rather clever. It manages to take the zombie novel to a new level of sophistication. Not only do we get a detailed context for their unexpected emergence, but there’s considerable credibility in how American society reacts. It has coherence as a near(ish) future history or science fiction extrapolation on current trends in medical research and the politics of government. Obviously we’re nowhere near the level of technology required to achieve some of these “breakthroughs” but there’s enough inventiveness on display to carry us through to the end. Unfortunately, the same can’t quite be said of the writing. By my standards, like those that went before it, this final book goes on too long. The text finishes on page 632 (we can ignore the Extras). I think it could safely have been trimmed by at least 15,000 words. I’m not denying the interest in some of the discussions and explanations but, overall, more editorial intervention would have produced a manageable length with improved plot momentum.

As a completely idle speculation, I wonder whether the emergence of a separate person in Shaun’s mind is a feature of his reservoir condition. If the virus is adapting to humans and there’s clear evidence it enhances the intelligence of the zombies once they come together in sufficient numbers, perhaps the more intelligent voice in his mind is the virus or an enhancement of his mind manifesting with a different voice (with occasional hallucinations). So where does this leave us in overall terms? On balance, there’s enough constructive thought invested in this trilogy to make it worth reading. The explanation for the zombies is pleasing. There’s a slight loss of balance in that the developments in computing and medical technology is way too advanced without there being more general visible progress in society. Even though the Rising of the zombies would have thrown a spanner into the works, I would have expected there to be more applications in everyday life, e.g. better weapons with which to fight the zombies, lightweight armour to resist bites, biomechanical body parts to replace limbs or to augment human performance, different fuel-type vehicles, more use of solar energy to replace reliance on centrally generated electricity, and so on. That said, the science fiction feels reasonably good. The trilogy also works as a political thriller with the relationship between the blogging community and the rest of the world carefully worked out. So Blackout is quite good as science fiction, it has good thriller set pieces as the characters flee from or fight the zombies, and the various political manoeuvres and conspiracies are plausible. This gives us a reasonable momentum to recommend reading, but be prepared to skip over the slow-moving bits where the editorial pencil failed to strike.

For reviews of the first two novels in the trilogy, see:
Deadline
Feed
plus Parasite
and writing as Seanan McGuire:
Chimes at Midnight
Discount Armageddon
Half-off Ragnarok.

This was nominated for the 2013 Hugo Awards for Best Novel.

Deadline by Mira Grant

October 29, 2011 4 comments

Well, here we are in sequel land, and with more zombies. Although, in this case, only the best zombies need apply for admission. Following on the success of Feed, here comes Mira Grant (pseudonym of Seanan McGuire) with Deadline (Book II of the Newsflesh Trilogy). Stands back for a slightly ragged cheer to rise from the ranks of the massed fans. We were all impressed by the first. Indeed, it’s in the running for a Hugo Award so we’re not alone in thinking this was something special. Our months of waiting are over and we can dive into this thick mass market paperback. This produces an immediate groan. Not, you understand, because a zombie has just sashayed into view and is asking for a quick nibble. But because really long books run the risk of being padded out. The bean counters who have a lot of say in the publishing word want more pages for the bucks of their advances. That way, they can sell the public on the more-means-better marketing approach. Never mind the quality, feel the weight.

And the moment we launch into this sequel, our worst fears are realised. This must be the slowest of slow-burner starts in the history of sequel writing. Instead of starting off clean with a two page summary of what we’ve forgotten about the first, we get into a whole rewrite of the first book spread out over the first fifty pages. It’s immensely tedious and not a little annoying. This goes hand-in-hand with some really weird shit. I know I must have read a first-person narrative starring a hero who’s as mad as a box holding two frogs. I’ve read so many thousand books before. This can’t be a first with a schizo who has fully realised conversations with his dead stepsister (in third-person terms, it’s a bit like Harvey Dent who talks things though with himself rather than just flipping a coin). Indeed, towards the end, our hero Shaun is hallucinating she’s in the same room with him and actually touching him. Talk about someone who’s out of his tree and running around in the long grass looking for his psychotic break. This should be the ultimate unreliable narrator except this figment of his imagination keeps giving him very sane advice. Essentially, George, the dead stepsister, keeps him alive and functioning. This is a lot for us to get our head round (or perhaps that should be “heads”).

Seanan/Mira showing one of them has a dark side

However, once we get past the leaden opening, it picks up speed and begins to bowl along with the same energy that kept the first book so entertaining. Except we then have a new phenomenon to contend with. It’s what I call cod science. This is content written in language suggesting it’s real science and, for most practical purposes, it’s probably convincing to everyone who knows nothing about the subject-matter involved. That’s me, of course. I could write everything I know about virology on the back of a Brobdingnagian postage stamp. So we have to stop as various experts are tapped for input and our two-minded hero and his merry (wo)men then try to make sense of it. Yes, all this is necessary to advance the plot in an interesting direction. Indeed, one might actually applaud Mira Grant for constructing a nice exercise to evaluate utilitarianism as it might be applied to disease control. When I was younger and could still think coherently, I used to play around with the basic ideas propounded by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, looking for modern scenarios in which we might explore whether the methodology was still relevant. This plot highlights a very interesting dilemma. Although there does seem to be a wider conspiracy in play, one can understand why some of the interested parties might want to hide the “big picture”. Needless to say, our team of news hounds is hot on the trail given that the solution to the problem, as and when it emerges, will also identify the person responsible for the death of stepsister George.

The final problem lies in the use of the cloning trope. I always get the theory of how the body can be grown from the DNA of the original. What I never understand is how the copy comes with the knowledge and memories of the first. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to think about this but, in a book which makes great play of its cod science, you would think there would be some effort to fill in the gaps in our understanding.

Anyway, rather than spoil the enjoyment of getting to the end of this book, I’ll avoid any more discussion of the plot except to say there’s a completely fascinating development to our understanding of the way in which George died and why Shaun has even more reason to feel upset about it. Except, perhaps all this may be a little premature. So, where does all this leave us? If Deadline had been about one-hundred pages shorter, I think it would have been lining up for nominations in its own right. But someone has failed in the editorial stakes and left the blue pencil in a drawer. So be prepared to skip over the draggy bits to get to the heart of a very good story.

And just to prove my standards are too high, this novel was one of the 2011 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees and was shortlisted for the 2012 Hugo Awards for Best Novel.

For a review of the final book in the trilogy, see Blackout plus the first book in the new series Parasite
and writing as Seanan McGuire:
Chimes at Midnight
Discount Armageddon
Half-off Ragnarok.

Feed by Mira Grant

April 20, 2011 4 comments

In the spirit of this book, appropriately and punningly titled Feed — it’s about flesh-eating zombies — I need to offer the inside information that the author Mira Grant is actually Seanan McGuire in the real world. Having upheld the principle of journalistic integrity, reporting even the facts you didn’t know you wanted to know, let’s get past the pseudonym to the content. It’s fascinating to watch the shift in the mood of this book. It begins in much the style you would expect of a YA novel with youthfully irresponsible protagonists jauntily dicing with death as the zombies attempt a slow-moving ambush. There’s all the usual tension with the adoptive parents and a general sense of the generation gap. Then as we get out on to the campaign trail, we slowly get more serious so that, when the zombies break into the compound where the presidential hopeful is giving a campaign speech, the mood has become darker. It’s a clever manipulation of tone and, up to one-third of the book, the actual politics of an America overrun by zombies is underplayed. The morphing from a moderately conventional future history political drama with zombies into a mystery/whodunnit is also well handled as the evidence of a murder campaign builds (bearing in mind that, under the legal system outlined in the book, the militarisation of the dead is a terrorist offence, punishable by death). By then, we have clearly passed beyond what might have been considered YA territory. We’re very definitely in the realm of adult sensibilities as we view the inside of the Senator’s stables and get up close with the dead horses (and the cats, of course).

There’s a fair amount of infodumping about how the viruses are thought to have escaped into the wild. The structuring of the blogging news and opinion service is also much explained. This is inevitable at the outset so that we understand the social forces that have shaped the culture. Given that there has been a major disruption to the fabric of society, I’m faintly sceptical as to the scientific progress that’s been possible. I can see the need for all the portable blood-testing kits and would understand the high priority for their production. But there do seem to have been major technological advances in home and public building construction to provide security for entry and then during the essential showering and clothes washing processes. The computer advances are also quite spectacular and there’s a lot of miniaturisation. Obviously, there are fairly active R&D facilities supplying secure manufacturing complexes. The problems of food production and water purification for drinking have also been resolved given the need to avoid consuming the active virus. This creates a society at bay. It’s already had to give up the defence of Alaska and now focuses its survival in defended urban areas and self-help communities.

Mira Grant looking nice enough to be Seanan McGuire

I suppose when you are writing a book about integrity in news reporting that you should tell a story in cold blood. By that I mean you should never flinch from uncomfortable truths. So, if people have to die, then it should be reported objectively. There are too many books written today where you end up with the same basic cast of heroes as you started with. It seems everyone with a headline name gets to survive while the rest are cannon fodder. In this case, we have what proves to be a major conspiracy and it reaches into all the spaces where the resistance is lowest. That’s the way of darkness. Somehow, it always seems to have the power to sneak into corners and take up residence where you least expect it. The impressive thing about Feed is that Mira Grant does not shy away from death or from dealing with its consequences, reanimated or otherwise. After the key death, we then change back to a more conventional thriller format in which the survivors attempt to survive. It’s rather like watching these news reporters from the front line of the battlefield. There they stand with impressive explosions in the background, reciting facts about the number of casualties. These are the people who are seen to take risks to bring us the news. It may not be very sane or, indeed, entertainment in any sense of the word because, truth be told, we’re all probably watching in the hope the next explosion will take off the reporter’s head on camera — there’s a ghoulish streak in all of us. But the point of this book and, I suppose, of all these broadcasts from live fire environments, is that someone has to be brave enough to do it, otherwise we would never understand the truth of how awful it really is.

As will by now be fairly obvious, I like this book. Despite the fact that it runs a little too long, it’s smart and, for once, intelligent. I know, it’s almost a perfect oxymoron: an intelligent zombie novel. Go figure. Anyway, Feed has a sincerity about it that avoids the sin of preachiness. It stays true to itself right up to the end, and beyond where there’s also an interesting interview with the author. She reminds us that this is the first in a trilogy, now titled Newsflesh (kinda catchy in a zombie fodder way). The next in the set are called Deadline and Blackout, with the teaser excerpt of Deadline closing off the book. I’ve already ordered my copy. So should you.

Adding one more piece of good news, Feed was shortlisted for the 2011 Hugo Award of Best Novel.

For reviews of the sequels, see
Blackout
Deadline
plus the first book in a new series Parasite
and writing as Seanan McGuire:
Chimes at Midnight
Discount Armageddon
Half-off Ragnarok.

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