Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

This has a hint of flavor similar to Heinlein's last couple of novels, The Number of the Beast, and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Not from the standpoint of being stylistically like Heinlein, but from the philosophical writing idea that characters and objects in novels are part of a separate, perhaps parallel, reality to our own. At the end of Heinlein's career, he seemed almost to be thumbing his nose at his critics and saying, "Look, I can do whatever I want to with the characters I created, and if I want to have them all show up at a cosmic family reunion and love fest, I will, drat you!"

In Libriomancer, the protagonist, Isaac Vainio belongs to an order called the Porters, founded by Gutenberg himself, which consists mainly of magic users who can draw upon the reality created by the masses of readers of a given story, and pull from its pages pretty much any useful thing they desire, given some intrinsic limits on their power versus the potency of the objects. One of the fun things, from a long time fantasy and science fiction reader's point of view, with this book is recognizing the novels he refers to, which inspires a brief nostalgic moment or two along the way. Probably some of what Hines is going for here.

Isaac works as a librarian (good choice for a libriomancer). The backstory here is that he was training for fieldwork with the Porters and crossed some vaguely defined line within the organization, and has been exiled to a research-only role. When a trio of vampires shows up to attack him and trash the library, Isaac is forced into a more active role investigating why the undead have instigated a war with the Porters...or have they? He's helped in his journey by the surprisingly extant Ponce de Leon, a disgraced Porter, and Lena, a displaced dryad who has the hots for Isaac. As the story moves along, Hines, through Isaac's bumbling efforts, gets to explore the possibilities of libriomancy as Isaac tries things he's too ignorant to know he can't or shouldn't.

I've only read one other book by Hines, the first in a dungeon crawl series, though I have a couple of his paperbacks in my TBR pile, awaiting the acquisition of the first novel in the series before I start. Cleverness and light humour seem to be the key element in his writing, and this one managed to amuse me for a few hours, with a reasonably engaging hero. I've got the sequel on hold at the local library. We'll see how the series shapes up.

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