Thursday, 30 June 2011

'Dark War' - Tim Waggoner

Dark War is the third Matt Richter novel by Tim Waggoner. Having read, and enjoyed the previous two made it an easy decision to read this one. Angry Robot kindly enough provided me with a review copy of Dark War.

400 years ago the world was a hard place. It was a time when the monsters and creatures of legend still walked among us. Us humans knew about them. And we fought them. And we were winning. To save themselves from annihilation, the most powerful of the Darkfolk, old gods, demons and ancient vampires used their magic to escape along with their brethren to another dimension. Thus, Nekropolis was born. Nekropolis is divided into five Dominions, each ruled by a different Darklord. The Nightspire stands in the centre. It's the home of Father Dis, the ultimate ruler of Nekropolis.

Matt Richter was a homicide detective back Cleveland, Earth. A case brought him and his partner, through to Nekropolis. They were both killed saving the day, but Matt Richter came back from the dead. He is now Nekropolis only self-willed zombie. All other zombies are stinky, shuffling automatons that can only obey the whims of their master. Matt is just stinky.

Being a zombie made it difficult for Matt to move back to Earth. He constantly needs magic to preserve and repair his decaying body. That kind of magic is only available in Nekropolis so that is where Matt is staying. Being an ex-copper Matt has built up a reputation as a problem solver. The kind of problem that requires more brain power than brawn. He's also knocked up a half-vampire girl, Devona. She happens to be the daughter of Lord Galm, one of the rulers of Nekropolis.

We are dropped into the middle of one of Matt's cases. His mate Darius needs his help. A Nekropolis in an alternative reality is in danger and only Matt can help. Together with Devona's security team, she runs a private security business, they travel to the new dimension. Thanks to a versatile team, some fancy gadgets, some cheeky one-liners they save the day. They don't escape without a few scratches though, and Devona collapses from pain. Fearing for their children she is rushed to the Fever House, vampire hospital, for examination. Everything appears to be fine. However, Lord Galm makes a surprise visit where he is suspiciously concerned for Devona and her children.

Matt needs to take care of his battered body. Papa Chatha, a voodoo priest, is the man he turns to for repairs. Only problem is that he is not him answering his door. A girl in her early teens opens the door and introduces herself as Shamika, Papa Chatha's niece. He has gone missing and she is worried about him. Matt has never known Papa Chatha to go missing for such a long time and is concerned. There is a rumour that several skilled low-profile magic users have gone missing. The leader of the magic users blames it all on the demon queen. Nekropolis is on the brink of a civil war.

You save the damn city a couple times, and suddenly everyone expects miracles from you. - Matt Richter

Dark War, along with the other Matt Richter novels, is a great read. It's pretty much like a bungee jump. Exciting from start to finish and almost over as quickly. I love the world building by Tim Waggoner. Nekropolis is such a great place filled to the brim with awesomeness. It's all a bit tongue in cheek as well. Tim Waggoner has given everything and everyone terrific names. Biggest hospital is Fever House. Daily Atrocity is of course a newspaper. The inhabitants have equally fun names, Suicide King, Patchwork and Sally O'Sorrows. Just like Terry Pratchett, Tim Waggoner has invented his own alternatives to every day gadgets. Having the original Franekstein's monster working as the industrial designer, most gadgets are flesh made and alive. The gadgets are often grotesque and a little kinky.

I pulled out my hand vox, flipped open the lid, and pressed Papa's number. I hated using the damned thing - the tiny ear you speak into is weird enough, but the small mouth you press your own ear against is just plain gross, especially when it gets a little sloppy with its tongue. - Matt Richter

Each book is trying to out do the last one with new weird places and gruesome characters. There is also a lot of familiar faces from the old books. Lazlo, the grotesque demon cabbie, is a great example of one. He shows up every time Matt needs a ride. They swap jokes, the cab eats someone that's annoying and Matt runs off to save the day.
Matt Richter himself is very likeable. He is a cliche cop, loner, consumed by his work and just does not know when to shut up. His single greatest power is being able to insult beings of great power without being annihilated on the spot. Always gets the last word in a conversation.
The other supporting characters are also great. They have very different personalities and range of powers, which guarantees that every new problem they encounter will have a new solution. Always fun.

I'm very enthusiastic about Dark War and I can easily overlook the weaker sides of the book. Matt Richter solely relies on friends and favours. Without them and a lot luck he would be long gone. It's not very convincing that someone that is so weak compared to the monsters roaming the streets of Nekropolis would last more than five minutes. The jokes and dialogue can on occasion be a little cheesy.

Just accept Dark War for what it is, and what's it not, and you will enjoy it. Non stop action, cheeky one liners and zombiliciousness, all in a great setting.

Dark War weighs in at 416 pages and is published by Angry Robot.

Recommendation: read

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