This is book#10 in the Garrett PI series, and it really helps if you have read the first nine. By now, Cook is telling linked episodic stories, which was not so much the case with books 1-5 or so. The other reviewer has mentioned the plot, and the blurb is up there to read, so I dont need to get into that detail, really.
Garrett is a noir PI in a grimy fantasy city - kind of like if Lankhmar was populated by Tolkien, and to top it off a generations long war strangely like Vietnam has just been won by the good guys - well, Garrett's guys. Kinda. Garrett tells his stories in the first person, and you know, I think he's a little bit of an unreliable narrator from time to time.
Into this crazy backdrop we have little grey men (and, notably, women) poking around for reasons of their own. Its a gutsy call to throw sci-fi into what is already a blend of fantasy and detective genres, but Cook makes it work. Really though, the story swirls around Garrett - there is no real central villian to be defeated, more a mystery to solve - and this mystery is really insoluble, given we have a magical society trying to understand alien technology and psychology. Even the Dead Man never really gets it, but we as readers do, to an extent.
For the last hundred of so pages of the book, we have Chodo Contague's 60th birthday party hanging over our heads too, as a not so subtle reminder that there are other troubles in the water besides the current case.
The story is really about TunFaire, Garrett's home, and how it is changing with the rule of law (well, of Deal Relway) and the integration of non-human refugees and ratpeople. Garrett's role in that change is significant, something he rarely realises himself, but when you look back over 10 books, he seems to have a genuine role as a catalyst for change - especially in the development of Pular Singe, ratwoman extraordinaire. TunFaire will never be the same.
This is Glen Cook writing, so there is humour, crackling dialogue, and weapons-grade fun. If you like either fantasy, or Raymond Chandler, you could do a lot worse than pick up the whole lot of Garrett tales (#13 coming out in November 2010 or thereabouts) and read them through in turn.
on 6 June 2002
Playmate brings Kip Prose, a dreamer whose inventions now work, to ask Garrett's help in finding his friends. These turn out to be stranger than anything seen in the Cantard, literally out of this world. Against his better judgment, Garrett gets involved, along with Morley Dotes, the Dead Man & trouble from the Hill. A fitting addition to the series, back to the light-hearted spirit of earlier additions after the slower (but still good) Faded Steel Heat.