Review: Half-Resurrection Blues
Me to Vanessa: “I can’t wait to find a real gem, a diamond in the rough, some unknown phenom.” Ding, ding, ding! I’ve think I’ve found one in HALF-RESURRECTION BLUES, Daniel José Older’s first in a new series of dark urban crime fantasy, Bone Street Rumba. This ghost story diamond has plenty of polish, its facets expertly cut within the dirt and grit of its setting.
In present-day Brooklyn with a delightful noir feel, Carlos Delacruz takes orders from a bureaucratic agency that seeks to put things to rights; but Carlos is an inbetweener, sort of alive but not really, and his cohorts and superiors are all quite dead. He feels caught between worlds and very lonely until others like himself begin to appear in the course of his ghost-banishing assignments. All hell breaks loose, or tries to. The body count hits closer and closer to home and Carlos is launched into a personal journey of discovery and a dilemma-filled quest. The world is in grave danger and Carlos is the only one equipped to save it, but this overused theme is accompanied by just the right amount of peril and charm and… just really good writing.
Strengths: Daniel José Older has that rare ability to deftly carry the reader along with great action, intelligence, and style. His debut novel manages to be edgy and breezy at the same time and the pacing is truly flawless. Though cynicism abounds, there is a depth of understanding of, and a fondness and respect for, the human condition and his rich cast of characters that is almost always missing in this genre. The first-person narrative is fresh and the writing clean and spare, but the occasional descriptive passage is terrific. Example: “The light rain isn’t falling so much as hovering in the air around us in a teasing little cumulus.” So nice. The absence of typos and punctuation errors added to the flow, which was great from beginning to end.
Weaknesses: I only include these in the spirit of excellence, and only because I care enough about this writer to take the time, not because they are glaring. Characters sometimes speak in the voice of the narrator, missing opportunities to distinguish them further. And though the overall editing seems tight and complete, words are often distractingly misused, like “renting” for rending and “ruckus” for raucous. For a first effort, though, these are minor flaws. The end tipped toward the melodramatic, which was disappointing, and a scaling-back of the profanity might open Mr. Older to a much wider audience in the future, which he deserves.
This is not my kind of book. It is profane and violent and all the things I tend to avoid. But it is, nevertheless, very good. Good enough to probably set aside my delicate sensibilities for the next installment.
- Recommended Age: 17+
- Language: Lots, but used like a backbeat to the story rather than a bludgeon or a vocabulary crutch
- Violence: Graphic but not overwhelming, a moderate amount
- Sex: Anticipation with detail; two scenes with detail