"This is the real thing, a shot straight from the Jungian depths, and the single most gripping book I've read this year," says Michael Swanwick on the back of the book. He's perfectly right. It just comes at you, this right, slightly altered, world of a shamanic America.
This is how the book begins, perfectly mixing modern life and fantasy:
"When I was fourteen, a cousin of mine angered a Malignant One. It was a big case, a genuine scandal. Maybe you remember it. At the time, when it all ended, I just wanted to forget about the whole thing. But a couple of years have passed and I guess maybe it's time to think about it again."
"The Bright Being lived in the office building where my cousin Paul worked analyzing retail sales reports. I don't know how she got there, really. We never did find that out. I don't even know how long she was there. I mean, before Paul met her. Maybe she lived on that same spot long before the building went up. Maybe she even lived there for thousands of years, way before the Indians came. No one really knows how old the Beings are. Some people say -- I read this in a book, actually -- that the Bright Beings, the Malignant Ones and the Benign Ones, go back to the beginning of the universe. According to this Sacred Physics book, the Big Bang Story that broke open the cosmic ylem egg showered out the Beings along with all the quarks and tachyons and all the rest of them. The Beings came from a kind of impurity in the ylem, a sort of aesthetic flaw in the original story. So maybe the Ferocious One lived at that spot for millions of years, embedded in the granite of Manhattan Island, waiting for humans, for victims -- like my poor cousin Paul."
"Or maybe she never lived there at all until the building went up. Maybe the contractor summoned her, maybe her offered her space in her building in exchange for help in getting his contract bid accepted. I thought of this because of what happened later. And because of what happened with the Defense Department."
Each paragraph just keeps leading into the next. If it doesn't grab you, you're dead. It's set in the same world as Unquenchable Fire, but is not a sequel or a prequel, and is a very different book. In Temporary Agency, Ellen the narrator's cousin Paul dates a woman who turns out to be a Malignant One. The second part of the book, Benign Adjustments, is a little slower, and deals with the aftermath of what happened to Paul, and the scandal that followed.