I finished reading Snake Agent a few days ago, and I thought it was a great read. I've been a little underwhelmed by the more traditional stuff these days (in romance, fantasy, and urban fantasy, which are my primary reading genres), and so I've been on the lookout for new authors and not necessarily edgier, but more unusual books. And sometimes older books as well.
Monday, January 14, 2008
In Search of the Unusual -- Snake Agent by Liz Williams
So when I saw this book at Borders on my last visit, I picked it up. The author sounded a little familiar, and when I got home I looked her up. It turns out this is a paperback reissue of a hardcover book (same title) originally issued in 2005, with two sequels. It was published by Night Shade Books, which is a specialty press for sci-fi and horror. I think it's possible that this is one of their first mainstream paperback releases.
Anyway, the book -- I really enjoyed it. It's a blend of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror, and it does the whole thing quite well. It's sort of urban fantasy set in the future with some heaven/hell mythology and a Chinese setting. It was the fact that the main character, Wei Chen, is Chinese that interested me in the book. I don't know if the author is Chinese (part or full or not) and it doesn't really matter to me because it is very clear that she has done her homework on the setting and on the character.
The Publishers Weekly review called Chen "a crack paranormal crime investigator" and they are on target. He actually uses police procedure to investigate the crime (the stealing of innocent souls for use in a brothel in hell), and you get a feel for the real-life rivalry between law enforcement groups when he's forced to collaborate with a vice cop from hell and an assassin of demons who works for the government.
Another nice touch was that his relationship with his wife was really realistic, IMO. No sunshine and roses, just two people (spoiler alert: well, not really two people, because his wife is a demon) trying to make it together and work out their differences and understand each other's needs.
I'm very much looking forward to the reissued paperback editions of the next two in the series, The Demon and the City and Precious Dragon, to be released in February and March 2008, respectively.