They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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Flex Flexes Its Magic-Drug Enhanced Muscles

So Ferrett Steinmetz is a writer from Cleveland that I've met at ConFusion, etc., and online for years. We've been on a few panels together and even did a joint reading once. He writes wonderful essays and his short fiction is way outside what I write and I really like it. His debut novel? No-brainer for me.

I pre-ordered this from Amazon way back on 14 April 2014 and it arrived yesterday, 4 March 2015. Yeah, publishing can take a while. I devoured 92 pages Wednesday night and then polished off the rest in sessions on Thursday on either side of a doctor's appointment.

Flex / Ferrett Steinmetz. Nottingham UK : Angry Robot, New York : Random House, 2015., paperback, $7.99.

This is the second time recently where I've read something which I could almost see was written specifically at me. Nonsense to be sure, but having your hero have a missing foot and wearing an orthotic? (grin) Well, it gets my attention.

One of the blurbs on this book claims "Breaking Bad by way of Scott Pilgrim versus the World". To that, I would add Good Omens / Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett plus The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul / Douglas Adams. Yes, these two are humorous novels, but also highly detailed and excitingly enjoyable. This is the league that Ferrett is playing in -- and he does a fine job.

Urban fantasy? Insurance scam? Flex itself is a drug -- magic distilled into a drug. Which gives you magic, even if you aren't magical. Now I don't write much fantasy, but as a Physicist, one of the things I can really appreciate in fantasy is applications of conservation laws regarding the use of magic. Magic should have a cost. I really liked A Wizard of Earthsea where the more powerful the wizard, the less likely they were to use the magic. Ferrett has learned these lessons well.

Though I don't play, I am conversant in gaming and video games. Ready Player One by Ernie Cline really read better if you knew early video games. Flex works on a generation of games after that, but like Cline, Ferrett doesn't penalize you if your video game knowledge isn't at the level of an entire misspent life. (grin)

Flex the book is a fast read. The first half is a roller coaster of a ride, if roller coasters had sharp edged 127° turns, hyperspace jumps and head on collisions. By the second half, you almost have some semblance of the rules -- though you're wrong more often than right.

This is not the kind of fiction that I write and I am more than okay with that. But one thing I can really appreciate is his non-standard cast of characters. And the opening? Brilliant. Brian De Palma's 1998 Snake Eyes opens with what looks like a continuous long shot of Nicholas Cage entering, no make that sauntering into an arena. We are taught that openings and opening lines are important. Indeed, there was a meme going around asking people to list some of their favorite opening lines. To this group, I would add:
Julian knew the exact price of everyone’s pants in this nightclub.
Ferrett talks about the opening hook here. It makes a nice point about what the first line should be -- and not what you might have done in a short story.

You give birth to a novel or any story, and send it into the world -- and no one really knows what it cost to write. But if you've followed Ferrett's blog for a long time, you might have some idea. I thought about that a lot while I was following the cost and effect of the magic in play throughout the story. If writing this caused you any pain, Ferrett, sorry -- it's totally worth it.

It sounds like Flux will be next.


To call this the Best Book I read in 2015 would be fairly disingenuous, seeing that the only other book I've read so far this year is half an anthology, which I should really finish.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
Tags: books, fantasy, reviews

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