Book Review: Ghost Train to New Orleans, by Mur Lafferty

17607897-the-ghost-train-to-new-orleansHello, Dear Readers, I am speaking to you from the depth of my book revisions.  I’m working on a book about romantic relationships in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Tentative release date July 2014!)  Coffee has been injected directly into my veins.  My computer has achieved sentience and delivers a small but irritating electric shock every time I misspell a word.  I’ve renamed my daughter “Simile” and the kid I babysit “Metaphor” and my husband now goes by “Allegory”.  It’s a busy time – and that’s why this is less of a book review and more of a passing comment.

The Shambling Guide to New York City was one of my favorite books from 2013.  It was fun and fresh and funny.  In this sequel, our heroine, Zoe, continues to work for a book publisher run and staffed by coterie (supernatural beings).  Zoe is sent to New Orleans to write a travel guide for coterie.  She’s accompanied by a death goddess, a cranky healing goddess, a dragon, two vampires, and her boyfriend.  She has staffing problem since one of the vampires wants to kill her and no one respects her as a boss.  She has relationship problems because her boyfriend ran out of the medicine that keeps him from turning into a zombie, and he’s searching for more in New Orleans but doesn’t want Zoe to help or to spend any time with him.  On top of all that, she’s dealing with the discovery that she’s a city talker, a person who can talk to the souls of cities.

I enjoyed Ghost Train, but some of the magic was missing from the first book, and here’s why:

1.  Zoe talks a lot about missing her friend from the last book who was so light-hearted and fun.  Guess what?  We miss her too.  There’s humor in this book, of course.  Gwen (the death goddess) tries to become more funny, with results that are so unfunny that they circle back round to being funny after all.  But this series has a lot of angst and violence and personal conflict, and it needs the lighter touch of a character who isn’t steeped in drama.

2.  The charm of the first book was that Zoe was the only non-super=powered being in her circle, and she had to make that work.  She fought to earn respect.  She fought to prove her competence.  She was adept at learning how to interact with the people around her and she had to deal with weird little things like the zombie co-worker’s lunch being stored in the company fridge right next to her own mundane little sandwich (zombie lunches are unappetizing).

But now, Zoe is also a super.  This series is still fresher than most urban fantasy and paranormal series, because it uses a greater cast of beings than just zombies, vampires, and werewolves.  Zoe is not physically kick-ass, even with her powers, and her super power is certainly unusual, but I think it was a mistake to make her other than a normal human.

I want to see Zoe be a smart human being and I want her to succeed.  In this book she is cranky and whiny and everyone shits all over her.  Her ass is literally and metaphorically kicked and her triumph at the end seemed incomplete.

I am bringing hard on this book because I loved its predecessor so very much.  But if I were assigning it a letter grade, it would be a B-, which is a nice, solid positive grade.  Certainly I want to read the next book, in which Zoe et. al will be going to London.  I’m just a little sad because I loved the premise of human Zoe and I’ll miss her.

Book Review: The Shambling Guide to New York City

Cover of Shambling Guide to New York CityIn The Shambling Guide to New York City, Mur Lafferty upends urban fantasy by being completely matter of fact about it.  Her main character, Zoe, accepts a job at a publishing firm that makes books for monsters – the politically correct term is coterie.  Zoe has to fend of the advances of the office incubus, decide whether or not wearing perfume to a meeting with vampires would be a good move (it might make her smell less like lunch) or a bad move (it might offend their sensitive senses of smell).  She learns to take coterie taxi’s and pay for thing with Hell Notes and cope with the fact that there are human brains in the office fridge.  Above all, Zoe never stops using her publisher’s brain – even during her first, shocking exposure to the coterie world, part of her is wondering what might publish well with this demographic.

I loved this book right up until all the plot madness kicked in and frankly, I lost track of what was going on.  Eventually Zoe has to go out and fight evil, but I preferred just watching her buy coffee.  There was a golem made out of a plane, and lot’s of explosions, and you, know, action type stuff happened, but that was all pretty confusing.  The strongest stuff of this book is definitely its matter-of-fact, funny, and at times horrifying look at what it would be like to work in an office full of monsters.  For instance, here’s one of Zoe’s coworker’s to-do lists:

To Do:

Eat Brains

Meet With Zoe regarding writing assignments

Learn where Wesley lives

Follow Wesley

Report back to Phil, Montel, or Zoe

Be Discreet

Eat More Brains

And no matter what kind of horrible carnage is happening, Zoe’s boss still expects her to keep to her deadlines.  Hence my new favorite office sign:



Come back tomorrow, and I’ll be happy to cope with anything.  For today, I have to do my job.

I thought this book was hilarious, but it was also not for the faint of heart.  Innocent people get eaten and coterie think very, very differently than humans, even those coterie that Zoe thinks of as friends.  There’s a scene of sexuality that involves what might best be described as attempted mental rape.  This book takes on a whole range of possible consequences of working with coterie, from the cute (the water sprite can flow under the office door and bother you even when you locked the door) to the horrific (when zombies run out of brains, bad things happen).

I loved this book even when it horrified me or grossed me out – I was rather impressed that the author kept the humor without shying away from the bad stuff.  I was less impressed by the chaotic ending – I still don’t know what happened, to be honest.  But I’m very much looking forward to the Shambling Guide to New Orleans.  Incidentally, humans who work with coterie can wear talismans of protection and guess what!  You can get your own!  Aren’t these pretty?  There goes my disposable income *sigh*:

photo of talismans


You can order these from surly-amics.  Practical and pretty – my favorite kind of thing!