Since John M. Ford and Neil Gaiman will both be at Boskone, I thought I should re-read their latest novels before then. I started with Ford’s The Last Hot Time (although maybe Ford isn’t going to be at the convention, because I don’t see his name on the preliminary program any more. Bummer; hope he’s well.). In a way, I think this is the silver lining of having the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome in my left wrist and having to cut way back on typing: I really like this book, but it’s oddly difficult for me to be coherent about it, so I have an excuse to make this short. Short-ish, at least.
The Last Hot Time is connected to the Bordertown shared universe, but does not take place in Bordertown. (The connections are ambiguous enough, to my reading at least, that I will not venture to say whether the book is set in the same world or a similar one.) Elfland came back sometime in the 1990s; the book is set the Levee, the part of Chicago that borders Elfland. Danny Holman is a paramedic escaping his small-town life in Iowa for the big city; he is given a job by Mr. Patrise, the Levee’s leader, who also dubs him Doc Hallownight. Though the book is set, as best I can tell, in the equivalent of the near future, the style is very much of an earlier era: wide-lapel suits, snap-brim hats, big cars and Tommy guns and smoky nightclub singers and gang wars and all the rest. (Cf. Doc Sidhe.)
That’s the setup. I’m reluctant to talk about the plot, because it sort of unfolds and ties together in a way that might be easy to spoil. There is a plot, let’s just say, though the direction of it might not be obvious at first. And, of course, if a young man runs off to the big city, he’s going to learn a lot about life and himself, which Doc does indeed.
Why do I like this book so much? It’s very strange, but I can’t point to one thing; there are a lot of great things about it, but even naming them all seems oddly insufficient. I will point out that it’s a book that requires careful attention to who the viewpoint character is and how events get filtered through his eyes; I don’t know, maybe I like it so much because it’s a Ford book where I understood all of the key points on my first read! I think, though, that it probably just hit me in just the right time, place, and manner to really resonate. It’s very finely done (and short), so I certainly recommend it, even if I can’t be coherent about it.
(In case you were wondering: my wrist is feeling much better than it was at the end of last week, thank you; I’m just trying to be careful.)