Carolyn Cushman Reviews Books by Ben Aaronovitch, Seanan McGuire, and Carrie Vaughn

Ben Aaronovitch, False Value (DAW 978-0-7564-1646-1, $26.00, 349pp, hc) February 2020; (Gollancz 978-1-473207851, 416pp, hc) February 2020.

Police detective Peter Grant is back on the police force but ends up going undercover in this eighth novel in the ever-entertaining Rivers of London series. As part of an investigation, Peter gets hired as a security officer at the Serious Cybernetics Company, a high-tech firm run by Terrence Skinner, a brilliant Australian/Silicon Valley billionaire now in London. Skinner’s clearly got a thing for Douglas Adams; among other things, security officers are called Vogons and the workers, mice. Peter’s geek enough to fit right in, but weird magic keeps cropping up, with ghosts, magic-aided drones, over-zealous magichoarding Librarians from New York, and even hints that legendary early computer scientist Ada Lovelace was dabbling in magic as well. The final big confrontation is dramatic, but some details are left hanging. Even more frustrating, Peter and river goddess Beverley’s expected twins have yet to make an appearance, though they’ve already gotten some interesting supernatural attention in utero, and I’m eager to see what happens.

Seanan McGuire, Imaginary Numbers (DAW 978-0-7564-1378-1, $7.99, 434pp, pb) February 2020. Cover by Lee Moyer.

This ninth book in the Incryptid series takes a new focus with main character Sarah Zellaby, a telepathic cryptic called a Johrlac, or cuckoo, raised by humans as part of the Price family. She overstrained her telepathic powers a few years back saving the family, but now she’s better and heading for Oregon to reunite with family – only she runs into another Johrlac, and they’re very territorial. At first they just want to kill her, but they soon decide they have another use for her. So, exciting bits alternate with touching and occasionally humorous moments as Sarah reunites with family, particularly her cousin Artie, who’s special to her, but so very human. It’s fascinating learning more about the cuckoos – but it’s here I started having some trouble. At one point, we’re told the ideal territorial ratio of Johrlac to humans is one to one million, but lots of cuckoos keep turning up; for people who supposedly can’t stand each other, they’ve sure got ways of spreading news quickly. The big threat and its solution involve a sort of math magic, a Johrlac specialty. It’s a neat idea and leads to a dramatic conclusion, but I ended up feeling as if logic got tossed out the window and covered up by saying, “it’s math.” Maybe I’m just not advanced enough for greedy, sentient equations. The accompanying novella, “Follow the Lady”, picks up with Annie (Antimony) Price and her pals, fresh from saving the world from the Crossroads, now heading cross-country from Maine to Oregon when they run into Annie’s legendary Grandma Alice Price-Healy, who lost her husband to the Crossroads and wants to discuss things. Not much happens, exactly, but it’s a nice visit with old friends and family.

Carrie Vaughn, The Immortal Conquistador (Tachyon 978-1-61696-321-7, $15.95, 190pp, tp) March 2020. Cover by Rebecca Harp.

The vampire Rick is one of the more interesting characters in the series about Kitty the werewolf. He’s a powerful, centuries-old vampire who generally avoids other vampires, prefers not to kill, and has had a series of colorful adventure in the Old West. This collection offers four novellas, one new, covering Rick’s life from a young conquistador exploring North America with Coronado in 1540 and getting turned, to events just before the war against the ancient vampire called Dux Bellorum in the final novel in the Kitty series. In between, Rick wanders the West, fighting killer vampires, and meeting the legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday. The new material – a prologue and the final story – shows Rick in Rome meeting a vampire Order, with a flashback of a memorable encounter with a mysterious ally of Dux Bellorum. This tale of a good-guy vampire almost holds up on its own, right up to the conflict with Dux Bellorum, at which point the background from the series is essential, but there’s ultimately a sense of joy that makes a piquant contrast to Rick’s usual undercurrent of existential despair.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the March 2020 issue of Locus.

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