Fantasy is a malleable genre, with one of the more popular variations in the last several decades being the urban fantasy. Combining the realism of our magic free world with the trappings of high fantasy has proven to be a fascinating juxtaposition. Imagine a seedy mob-run nightclub in a bustling city, serving a clientele of elves and ogres. Goblins operate as drug runners and wizards assist the police with investigative magic. With urban fantasy, the two worlds may be completely combined, or kept separate through shadowy cabals or government organizations. The fantasy elements may also be as high or as low as the author wishes. While The Dresden Files may be one of the more famous examples of low urban fantasy, other authors are rising up to take its place. The Nightjar, by Deborah Hewitt, is one such novel.
Superheroes hold a special place in our hearts. There is a certain allure to watching men and women with super powers fight evil and save the world time and again. Even since their inception in the pages of comic books and novels, superheroes have dominated our pop culture. Everyone knows Batman, Superman, Captain America, and Spider-Man. The Marvel Cinematic Universe reintroduced us to Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and more. Today, superheroes dominate. Part of our allure is the power fantasy. We want to be these people and posses their powers. Part of it is pure spectacle. The Battle of New York in the first Avengers film remains an action masterpiece. But part of our attention revolves around the story of Icarus. We enjoy watching these powerful people come low and being reminded that they are still mortal.
Welcome to 2019! In honor of our continued traveling forward in time, the first book review of this brand-new year is all about time travel into the not-so-distant past. As always, full spoilers are expected here.
There is a certain allure about time travel, even though it is far from the most widespread literary genre. We all know the great classics: A Sound of Thunder, The Time Machine, Doctor Who, etc. But time travel, while infinitely interesting, is difficult to write about. The amount of research it requires into past events rivals that of any nonfiction. Yet, we are drawn to it. It is a way to experiment with “what if’s” and “maybes.” It is also the ultimate power fantasy. Go back in time, fix one event or stop another from happening, and you fix everything that is wrong with the world. Who would ever pass that up?
The private detective is a fixture in fiction. Stalking through dark rooms, smoking under lazily spinning ceiling fans, waiting for their next big case in a lonely office. Fiction glamorizes the detective and prefers to show us the down-of-luck, grizzled, white man who somehow attracts the most beautiful women in the city. There are tropes and stereotypes and familiar story beats in every tale of detective fiction, some of which have already been discussed in previous blog entries. Everybody loves a good mystery. The trick in writing a truly great detective story is balancing the glamor with the realism. We enjoy stylization for the purposes of entertainment but allowing the real world to bleed through into the fiction is engrossing. This blend of real and glamor is what makes the Cormoran Strike novels such a joy to read.
Not everyone reads books for romance or adventure. For every book with happy events and writing that makes you feel good, there are five more than plumb the depths of depravity. The horror stories, the mystery tales. These are the books one reads when they want to examine the darkness that can exist out there in the unknown. We read mysteries because we do not want to know everything, and we read horror because we want to be scared. These genres are often paired together in an unholy matrimony of darkness, decay, and eldritch scares. Horror and mystery combine perfectly for the simple reason that we do not know everything.