Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book 45: Shambling Guide to NYC

The Shambling Guide to New York City, by Mur Lafferty. Paperback.

 I have been a fan of Mur Lafferty for a long time now -- I have blogged about her podcast before, and have reviewed one of her small-press novels. We even talked with her on episode 82 of the Book Guys Show.

And this week, I finished reading her first traditionally published novel, The Shambling Guide to New York City. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A range of personal issues has caused Zoe to leave her job as a travel writer in North Carolina, and she lands in New York City looking for a fresh start in the publishing business.  A flyer in a coffee shop leads her to apply for a job with a firm run by monsters publishing travel guides for monsters. To say that "she just won't fit in" may be an understatement.

But Zoe talks the vampire publisher into hiring her, much to the chagrin of her zombie and death goddess co-workers. The incubus is glad to see her, but he is glad to see everyone. She takes her job seriously, and tries to ignore the odd dining habits of her co-workers to produce an informative guide, snippets of which appear at the end of each chapter. But when a life-bringer (zoetist) comes to New York City to wreak havoc, Zoe finds herself in the middle of battle between coterie factions. There is golem vs. golem action on a grand scale.

I enjoyed the world that Lafferty built here. The monsters (collectively called "the coterie") interact with some humans, and this is a model that makes sense. There is no way that this world could be completely hidden from the human world is not believable. The presence of the Public Works Department is an original take -- in addition to caring for the sewers and utilities of New York City, these hard-working people enforce the coterie/human treaties, and "clean up" out-of-control monsters.

There is not a lot of fresh or surprising about this book. There are certain popular elements from urban fantasy and other genre work that play major roles here. The role of the wise elder, for example, was very standard. I was also mildly annoyed by Zoe's name. It is pointed out that her name means "life," and that was fine. But the presence of a group of beings called zoetists and a character named Zoe was a bit silly, I thought. But of course that is the smallest of all possible nitpicks.

I know from Lafferty's podcast that the second book in the series, tentatively titled "Ghost Train to New Orleans," is scheduled to come out in 2014. And I look forward to reading it.

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