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26 March 2009 @ 12:25 pm
Vicious Circle  
I read the first Felix Castor novel some time ago, and it was the first Urban Fantasy Detective Novel I'd come across which made it seem refreshingly different. Now, of course, I realise there is a whole genre of Urban Fantasy Detective fiction out there. In the light of which, I was curious to see if Vicious Circle by Mike Carey (the second novel) stood up as well as the first had done.

Mostly it stood up pretty well. The concept is that ghosts, and the undead in general, have suddenly started appearing in much greater numbers. Felix Castor is an exorcist who fights crime (somewhat against his will). The plot for Vicious Circle is much more firmly related to the fantastical elements of the background than the first novel was. In The Devil You Know, the story was grounded out in the realities of human trafficking while Vicious Circle is all about Demons and Satanists. I'm not sure it entirely benefitted from the more fantastical twist since it moved the novel more towards a kind of toned down horror (which I'm less interested in reading about) and away from the urban detective genre (which I like).

Felix Castor, himself, is clearly modelled in the tradition of Marlowe. I'm inclined to think he's a lot more likable than the novel appears to think he is - but I often have this problem with novels. When a character does something unpleasant because they see no other way out of the situation and, indeed, no other character suggests an alternative way out of the situation, them I'm inclined to feel sorry for them rather than outraged at their behaviour. Felix is also a bit dumb on a couple of occasions. The story does, at least, acknowledge that he is being dumb and offers some explanation for it, but it does feel a little clumsy, as if the only way Carey could manage to keep the plot ticking over, in the central third, was to have Felix lagging behind the reader's awareness of events. In fairness, on one occasion, the reader inescapably jumps ahead of Felix on the grounds that characters mentioned in passing are almost bound to turn out to have significance later on. That's not stupidity on his part, but it is still a little clumsy that the reader can see what's coming while the protagonist can not.

All that said, I enjoyed the detecting aspects of the story, thought the central idea interesting and quite clever, and liked Felix enough as a character to forgive him his moments of idiocy. The plot, itself, hangs together pretty well and the world-building is nicely consistent. I wouldn't recommend the book wholeheartedly, but if you fancy some urban fantasy with a Chandler-esque vibe, then you could do worse than these novels.
Greg McElhatton: Reading by candlelightgregmce on March 26th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
I'm a little mortified to admit that I picked up the first Felix Castor book back when Mike Carey was in town on a signing tour two years ago—and still haven't actually read the book. *sigh* I really need to get around to that soon...
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on March 26th, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
I'd say it does what it does very well, if that's any recommendation, but I'm not convinced it would convert anyone to the genre, it you see what I mean.
fredbassettfredbassett on March 26th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)
I've read both of these and liked them quite a lot. I'll certainly read a third one if it appears.

I rather like this brand of urban fantasy.

Have you read Simon Green's Nightside books? They're great fun.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on March 26th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
On the inside cover of my copy of Vicious Circle is listed Dead Men's Boots which I take to be a third installment.

I'll check out the Simon Green books (or at least add to the Amazon wishlist in preparation for the next time I feel flush!)
fredbassettfredbassett on March 26th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
I can't remember whether I've got that one or not. I've not been very inclined to novels recently, and I've now just started a new book by Owen Davies on Grimoires.
jesusandrewjesusandrew on March 26th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
I'm inclined to think he's a lot more likable than the novel appears to think he is

I think what you're responding to there is Castor's assessment of himself - while the books aren't told from a first person point of view, they are heavily infused with the character's perception of the world and how he fits into it. So I think feeling sorry for him rather than outraged is in fact the appropriate response.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on March 27th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
It is first person actually, I think you're misremembering, but there isn't a big suggestion of Felix being overly biased towards himself.

It's probably a legacy from the Who books but I get irritated when a character gets punished for having the fore-thought to plan in an action of last resort which they then use when no other option is left.
jesusandrewjesusandrew on March 27th, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC)
Whoops! So much for my memory :) I must double check my info before commenting on things I read months ago.

And I can understand that sort of frustration. If the character is making a judgement about themselves and it fits their personality, then I don't mind, but if it's portrayed as some sort of authorial judgement then I think that's just playing false with the reader.