Fast Forward Book Review for January 2010
by Matthew Hughes
San Francisco : Night Shade Books, 2007
by Colleen R. Cahill
There are some books you read for the intriguing plot, others for their charming characters, and still others for their delightful prose. And a few you read for all three, as is the case with Matthew Hughes#39; Majestrum from Night Shade Books. Set in a science fiction environment that has a sort of Victorian culture, this book is a mystery, an adventure, a fantasy and just a whole lot of fun.
Henghis Hapthorn, the finest freelance discriminator (what we would call a private detective) is facing some hard realities. This champion of rationalism not only has to deal with the fact that his integrator, once a machine, has been transformed into a being that is half-cat/half-monkey, he also faces a second him; the part of Henghis#39; mind that was his intuition has developed its own personality, one that he finds quite contrary at times. These two are signs of a change in the age from one of science to one of magic, something that Henghis is not looking forward to at all. But he cannot brood on it too much, as duty calls and our hero is asked to find out if a noble Lord#39;s less than beautiful daughter is being led astray by a fortune hunter. This case is not as straight forward as it first seems; Henghis finds himself traveling through the planets of the Spray, trailing after an itinerant music festival to track down the author of a weird little tune, one that seems to be a key, although the question arises as to what?
This description shows the elements of fantasy, mystery and science fiction in the story, but does not reveal much about the characters. Henghis is a man of many talents and an analytical mind, but also one of a powerful ego. This is a bit surprising, as both Henghis#39; transformed integrator and his mind-sharing alter ego do their best to shrink his head, which must be disturbing as only Henghis can hear them. What is also difficult to present in this short review is the wonderful way the author has with words; the entire text adds to the atmosphere of a proper society, with all the politeness and sarcasm one would expect. This book has some of the feel of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but with a bit more edginess; certainly Holmes would never have offered to turn off his Watson, as Henghis will occasionally suggest to his assistant.
This is the first Henghis Hapthorn novel, but you may have run across this character in short stories. The book continues the adventures of our intrepid discriminator and is a must read for any fans. Even if you have not read the early works, this book is enjoyable on its own and who knows, you might find yourself seeking out the other stories. Whether you are a long time reader or new to Hughes#39; work, I recommend Majestrum.