Skip to main content

Review: The Generation Killer - Adam Simcox

Urban fantasy, which brings fantasy elements into the everyday world, is far more interesting than the totally imaginary setting of a classic fantasy, because the clash between familiar life and weirdness provides brilliant opportunities to stretch the imagination. Of late, some of the best urban fantasies have incorporated a police procedural element - most notably the Rivers of London series. But Adam Simcox inverts the whole approach. 

Standard urban fantasy/police procedural crossovers feature real world police coping with fantasy-driven problems. Simcox gives us a refreshing new approach in dead detectives who deal with crimes defeating the mundane police. This is linked into an afterlife that seems loosely based on the Catholic triad of hell, purgatory and heaven, with the main fantasy setting being the Pen, described as purgatory, but in reality distinctly hellish. It’s from here that dead cop Joe Lazarus sets out, making a dangerous transition to our world, which the dead refer to as 'the soil'.

Simcox gives us an impressively layered fantasy realm with its own mind-boggling problems (introduced in the first novel in the series, The Dying Squad). The Pen is run by a 16-year-old (dead) Warden Daisy-May, who struggles with keeping in control as she is new to the job, had little in the way of induction training and is dealing with a realm of rebellious souls and half-souled 'dispossessed'. 

The fantasy location of the Pen is interesting (though a reader who hasn’t read the first book might find it hard to get their head around). But the book’s real strength is when crimes are investigated in the real world - this happens in two parallel storylines, with Joe Lazarus pursuing the Generation Killer of the title in a very dark and gloomy Manchester, while the Duchess (Daisy May’s predecessor as Warden) is trying to stop her sister from wreaking havoc in Tokyo. Each of these storylines is strong enough to support a book on their own, and whenever the action moves back to the afterlife, I was impatient to return to the soil.

Simcox has come up with such a rich piece of world building that it can sometimes be tricky to follow the logic - good fantasy (unlike magical realism) has to be internally consistent. It seemed a bit odd, for example, that people in the afterlife could be killed - did they end up in the afterafterlife? Was it turtles all the way down? But in the real world action parts, this feels less of an issue.

The Generation Killer is an original, gripping and gut-wrenching approach to the urban fantasy genre. It works on its own, but I’d recommend reading The Dying Squad first.

See all of Brian's online articles or subscribe to a weekly digest for free here
You can order The Generation Killer at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Bookshop.org

Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Mirror, mirror

A little while ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Royal Institution in London - arguably the greatest location for science communication in the UK. At one point in the talk, I put this photograph on the screen, which for some reason caused some amusement in the audience. But the photo was illustrating a serious point: the odd nature of mirror reflections. I remember back at school being puzzled by a challenge from one of our teachers - why does a mirror swap left and right, but not top and bottom? Clearly there's nothing special about the mirror itself in that direction - if there were, rotating the mirror would change the image. The most immediately obvious 'special' thing about the horizontal direction is that the observer has two eyes oriented in that direction - but it's not as if things change if you close one eye. In reality, the distinction is much more interesting - we fool ourselves into thinking that the image behind the mirror is what's on ou