Released : March 14, 2012
Reviewed : Faye
This spring Blind Eye Books published The Irregulars
. An anthology set in our world with a fictional hidden underworld replete with supernatural criminals and those whose job it is to stop them. On the surface these are cop stories. Agents of NATO's Irregular Affairs Division set out to solve crimes and do so quite successfully. More than that, these stories written by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Astrid Amara, and Ginn Hale are the stories of men who have suffered life altering betrayal. These men have to come to terms with their lives as they are to get what they want, or what they need.
The first story “Cherries Worth Getting,” by Nicole Kimberling
is the story of Agent Keith Curry. He learns that anyone, of any species, can be the bad guy. Even he can be the bad guy. The means of Agent Curry's epiphany is the consumption of human flesh. Agent Curry was a chef who took a private catering job. His “client” provided the meat for the feast. To compound matters, as a chef Curry was very involved with the production of the food he served. The meat wasn't ground and waiting to be formed into patties for a barbecue, it was still attached to bones. For a few days Curry practiced his beloved craft of cooking by painstakingly coaxing the most flavor out of the flesh and bones he had been provided. It would have been best had he noticed the bit of tattooed skin still attached to some of the meat sooner.
After contacting the authorities Curry learns his client was a Goblin. Not only do they, and a whole host of other extra-human creatures exist, they like to eat people. He stops eating meat entirely and no longer cooks anything more challenging than grilled cheese sandwiches. Curry decides to work for NIAD as they are sorely in need of someone with his expertise, and he wants to stop Goblins from trafficking in human flesh. His newest case has all the hallmarks of Goblin crime, so he requests the assistance of a Goblin linguist. Curry is stunned to see Gunther Heartman show up at his door given that Gunther is a former romantic partner. A former romantic partner who dumped Curry just about the same time Curry wanted to ask for a more serious relationship. Curry is even more stunned to learn that the stunningly gorgeous Gunther is a transmogrified Snow Goblin.
The story of Agent Curry is, for me, the most introspective of those in the anthology. As such, it could have been rife with long winded internal maundering about ethics and what it means to be human as well as humane. Kimberling evaded this completely and instead gave us a beautiful example of showing a characters attributes as opposed to telling us. Agent Gunther Heartman repeatedly does the right thing with grace and dignity, he is skilled at his job, and is even a community volunteer who gives Christmas cookie decorating parties for humans who need to adjust to life on Earth. Time and again Agent Curry sees a really great guy in front of him. He also remembers all he said about Goblins in his past interactions with Gunther, much to his shame. Curry realizes he has been a bigoted ass. Despite being a really great guy, Curry is also reminded of Gunther's Goblin-ness every time he sees Gunther eating cigarettes and drinking lighter fluid as well as his obvious comfort and finesse in dealing with the Goblin community. That Curry again finds himself drawn to Gunther was, thankfully, completely believable. Agent Curry was removed from his initial traumatic Goblin encounter and his break-up with Gunther by a lot of healing time. We, as readers, aren't asked to believe Curry suddenly accepts dating something that terrorizes him.
There is a logical and technical part of my brain that wants to claim nothing all that bad really happened to Curry. He was tricked into eating some meat to which he had ethical objections. He just needs to get over it. The rest of my brain is trying desperately to keep my flesh from crawling off my body 'cause it could crawl near something that wants to cook and eat it! Despite the lack of constant danger in the form of car chases, gun fights, or magical showdowns this story and it's ideas of unwitting cannibalism and humans as meat has a truly visceral impact.
Archer Green just wants his family's beads back. It's a bit of an obsession, really. Josh Lanyon's “Green Glass Beads”
is the story of obsession borne of betrayal and the betrayals borne of obsession. Archer is determined to own his family heritage. His human father left his fae mother who then committed suicide. Archer was left alone in the human realm in the care of the foster system. For Archer, the green glass beads embody all he has lost. He is determined to get them back. Archer is completely unaware his obsession with the beads is known to many who deal in magical objects. Never did he think his obsession would cause him to become the obsession of something much bigger than himself. Commander Rake is new to Vancouver. Archer finds himself drawn to Rake like a moth to a flame. However, nowhere has it ever been said that the flame doesn't want the moth.
Rake is the former partner of Gunther Heartman. Unlike Heartman, Rake will use any and all available means to get his target. It's incomprehensible to him that he could be off target. Rake sets out to seduce his way into Archer's confidence. Neither man had any idea there would be lines it would break them to cross, nor did they expect how much it would hurt to see the other suffer.
Growing up isn't easy and coming of age tales are rarely classified as “feel good” stories. “Green Glass Beads” is no different. Lanyon told the tale of Archer Green's growth amidst evocative descriptions of a museum filled with magical artifacts, dangerous creatures, and a fight amongst demons. Demons! Archer's half-fae heritage is as integral a part of his character as his obvious immature obsession with the beads. It's not only the obsession with the beads that is immature. Archer is immature in general and for a faerie is barely an adult. Lanyon rescued him from being a one-dimensional character by giving him a conscience that has him do the right thing in spite of his obsession with the beads as well a fantastic moment of heroism. Ultimately, Archer is forced to grow up instantly as he realizes he is losing everything he didn't even know he had.
Despite never being privy to his point of view, Rake's obsession with Archer was as integral to the story as Archer's obsession with the beads. Both men fail at obtaining their goals, yet ultimately succeed at getting what they really need.
(Part 2, covering the stories by Ginn Hale and Astrid Amara to follow)