Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Nightlife Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be


by Rob Thurman

Published by Roc

2 Out of 5 Stars

I have come to the conclusion that I should not buy urban fantasy books that were first published as mass market paperbacks.  I can only assume it's the publishing world's version of "straight to DVD" or a SyFy original movie.
Nightlife isn't terrible, but it isn't great.  It's been-there-done-that territory for me and just wasn't worth my time. The plot is somewhat original:  The Auphe (apparently another name for elves) need a human/Auphe child to help them open a gate to the past.  The problem?  Auphe aren't the Keebler elves:  they're hideous, monstrous creatures who only live for violence and destruction.  Not exactly what a woman wants to cozy up to for a night of passion.  So the Auphe find a drunken gypsy whore who will do anything for money.  Apparently they had to wait centuries for a woman depraved enough to sleep with anything that could provide adequate coin as payment for the experience (on which I call "bullshit" as this is the stuff of pure fiction--Hugh Hefner manages to find such a woman every fifteen minutes).  Anyway, 9 months after this crime against nature occurs, little Caliban, named for the offspring of witch and demon in Shakespeare's The Tempest, is born.  Cal and his half-brother, Niko, escape their terrible childhood together and spend the rest of their lives on the run from the Auphe. 

What's not particularly original about the novel is the execution.  The characters are stereotypes to the urban fantasy genre.  Niko is some sort of concrete jungle ninja; he walks around packing enough steel that he's at serious risk of shish kebabbing himself every time he sits down. He must also be as stealthy as a drawer full of silverware.  Despite being so deadly, he's gorgeous and has blonde tresses that would be the envy of Lady Lovely Locks and the Pixietails (how's that for an obscure 1980's toy reference?)  Cal, the supernatural part of the duo, is like Harry Dresden's younger brother.  He's snarky and sarcastic in a not particularly clever manner.  And this is problematic for me because I'm sick of this ultra-hip, pop-culture spouting, always quick with a quip in the heat of battle, "I'm such a smart ass, but I just can't help it" persona of the protagonists in these types of novels.  It gets grating after a while, which is why I finally gave up on the Dresden Files and it's a big part of the reason as to why I'll be giving up on the Cal Leandros series.  This smug glibness seems to be a literary sleight-of-hand for distracting the reader from a lack of character development, which is fun at first but gets tiresome after the second or third novel of this type.

Another reason Nightlife didn't particularly hold my attention is because it begins with the resolution for what should be the novel's climax and, sure, the opening certainly gets your attention, but by the time you make it to what should be the most suspense filled part of the novel you realize, "Oh, hey, this has looped back around to the beginning. Damn!  I already know what's going to happen."  It's as anticlimactic as the Anthony Weiner scandal (c'mon, we all knew that was his junk).  This foreknowledge certainly makes the last 1/4 of the novel tiresome. 

Again, I can't say the novel isn't worth reading; in fact, it might be okay for those new to the genre.  I've read so much of this stuff that I know I've become jaded and from now on, if it wasn't first issued in hardback, I'm going to take a pass on this genre. 

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