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Classic Review: Half Resurrection Blues

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on September 12, 2016

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Urban Fantasy is my baby and I will fight anyone that says anything bad about it but there are a few trends in the genre that are hard to deny. The urban fantasy books that have literary aspirations usually handle it in one of two ways. By masquerading as Magical Realism stories, which is frankly ridiculous. Or by splitting themselves in two, with all of the pulpy vampires, monsters and magic in one half of the book, giving it some punch and vigour, and all of the lyrical prose in the other half of the book where there are gentle character studies and romance and a great deal of sighing. You do not see the magic and monsters treated with the same respect that the human element is treated because it isn’t real, either to the writer or the reader. The fantasy is just that, divorced from the real world where the “real art” is being created.

Main characters in urban fantasy stories are presented as human in contrast to the magical goings on around them, they are the easy access point for readers living in the mundane world that we all occupy. The main characters in the Bone Street Rumba books and specifically in Half Resurrection Blues are human because they are magical. They are magical because they are human. There is no monstrous “other” to point the finger at because the author recognises that magic and spirituality is a vital component of humanity.

It seems bizarre to talk about authenticity when it comes to stories of the fantastical but there has always been a very clear distinction for me between writers who have read about the mythologies that they pillage for setting and those who understand it on an emotional level. One of them can recognise the pattern of a story but the other one understands the beats and the rhythm. Half Resurrection Blues has that music in its writing, it has such a distinct voice that it actually took some time for me to fall into the flow of the language. Once I had it was impossible to get back out.

There is no switching between languages in the book, there is no sudden shift from our reality to a world of ghosts and goblins riding tiny exercise bikes because they are the same reality. There is also no shift between the language that Carlos uses in his internal monologue and the way that he speaks to everyone he meets. That honesty of purpose and intention carries over throughout the book, a possible side effect of the second sight that afflicts this hero with the ability to read the deepest desires and twisted plots of all the living around him.

When there is a character he wants to romance there is never any doubt about it. When there is a problem there is no posturing and flinching away from the reality of the situation. It is refreshing to meet a character that is both likeable, confident in themselves and honest about their feelings to that degree.

Carlos would have been enough to get me hooked on this book even if the writing hadn’t been some of the prettiest prose that I have ever had the good fortune of coming across.

    G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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