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Creating its own sub-genre?
on 18 January 2014
This is a very intriguing mix, the story of what would have happened if Harry Potter hadn't realised he was a magician until he became a military helicopter pilot. This draws heavily on the X-Men mythos, with a society that hates and fears the Latents - humans who have developed magical powers such as necromancy, elemental manipulation and - in the case of our protagonist, Oscar Britten - 'portomancy' - the ability to travel anywhere on Earth, and between dimensions, at will. Stamping home the X-Men influence is the Magneto like character we meet halfway through the book, who considers Latents the next step of evolution, and wishes to enslave humankind.
But the author brings his own knowledge of military process to bear and a healthy imagination, giving us a dystopian US background, another dimension where Earth is at war with goblins and every other magical inhabitant, and a backstory of Native Americans fighting for secession with their own magical powers.
I think this book would appeal to Tom Clancy type readers, who want fast action, gritty heroes, and sexy ladies. For the typical fantasy reader, it may be a little on the 'action packed' side, a little two dimensional. The author does show fantastic confidence for a debut; clearly creating a large universe and background with plenty of potential for future sequels.
However my main bugbear was with the main character; much is made of the writer's military background, and yet his main character is a soldier who is completely incapable of following any order without questioning it, even before he develops his powers. Whilst I think this is done to emphasise Oscar's moral core (this is a US military we don't normally see in fiction, effectively enforcing a police state) I couldn't help but think Oscar would have been more likely to have been in the glasshouse than at the controls of a helicopter if this was his attitude to military discipline. I would rather have seen a gradual decline in his desire to follow orders. This also created a pretty repetitive narrative to the novel; Oscar gets orders, Oscar rebels, Oscar gets put in his place, repeat. This makes it feel like a very long time until we get to the heart of darkness. The other thing that irritates me is the seemingly uniform attitude to Latents. When Oscar manifests, he runs to his parents and then his best friend. If my best friend turned up at my door with 'mutant powers' I would think it was incredibly cool; everyone in this America immediately panics and calls the authorities, who they believe will *kill* their best friend / son, etc. That was a bit too much of a stretch of the imagination for me.