Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ack! Where Has This Book Been All My Life?

I learned of a new book in Liz Williams' Detective Chen series at a time when I never even knew there WAS a Detective Chen series of books. Reading the description of this recent fourth book in a new volume starring her Detective Chen, I realized I needed to back up and learn more about the first book in the series, Snake Agent.
And, whoa, this thing sounds good! Where have I been? It's like a weird blend of the mystery, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi genres all at once. Normally the first two would turn me off--although I've read my fair share of both--but, combined with the last two elements, I'm intrigued enough to check it out. Those who know me will know why when you read what the book is about.

From what I can gather, the setting is a late 21st century Asian city called Singapore 3, and at some point in the past communications were established with both Heaven and Hell, or the local culture's variations thereof. Singapore 3 follows Chinese religious beliefs, or as Westerners condescendingly call, "mythology," and therefore the setting evokes a lot of traditional Chinese concepts, themes, and theology concerning the afterlife. In this strange new world of the future, both "angels" and "demons" commingle on a frequent, if not contentious, basis with us regular mortals.

Detective Chen is, of course, an investigator who happens to also be married literally to a demon. Chen is a "Snake Agent," someone who's jurisdiction regularly takes him to the very boundaries of Heaven and Hell, and back again. He's sort of like a spiritual Fox Mulder. One day a wealthy businessman hires him to investigate the reason why his daughter's spirit never reached Heaven after her death. For reasons I'm unable to gleam yet, Hell also has a vested interest in this case, and sends one of their own to team up with Chen, much to his chagrin. The demon, one Zhu Irzh, is a detective as well.

I got all this from reading the description online, so I'm sure I have a few details off. But of course I'm interested in this because of the Chinese aspect, as well as the futuristic setting. While I'm not too keen on the supernatural aspects, I think I'll make the exception for this book. After all, I really shouldn't confine myself to one genre all the time (i.e., straight sci-fi). From the concept alone, these books sound a lot like one of my favorite video games from the PlayStation 1 -- Fear Effect. FE took place in a futuristic China (Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Shanxi) and dealt with a kick-ass female mercenary and her friends who get tangled up in the machinations of demons and, eventually, have to truck with the Emperor of Hell himself, Yan Luo.

Does this Detective Chen series sound good to anyone else? It's supposed to be light-hearted and humorous at times, and apparently it's well-written. If anything it will give me ideas on how to write the same. :-)

I've put the book on my Amazon wishlist for when I eventually clear through my daunting pile of backend books I've yet to read at home. I'm tempted to bump this one to the top and read it now, tho!

1 comment:

  1. I'ma have to get this, too. That is just WAY too interesting to pass up. Gotta love any good fiction, but especially good SF, that comes from a non-white point of view. This is a definite read.


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