Lisa Goldstein has long been on the list of writers I thought I should read something by sometime, and now she’s on the list of writers I want to read everything by.
The set up for Dark Cities Underground reads like something from the manual of how to write a novel that appeals to me: Ruthie Berry is writing a book about the author of a beloved series of children’s stories a la Barrie, Milne, Lewis, Grahame, et al. She manages to get an interview with the reclusive author’s son, Jerry, the template for the books’ hero Jeremy. Strange things start to happen, and Jerry starts to remember things he’s forgotten since childhood . . . and I’m hooked.
Goldstein does two things extremely well in this book. She reworks mythic tropes into a modern day setting (reminding me a bit of Neil Gaiman, particularly Gaiman’s Neverwhere, with which Dark Cities Underground shares some superficial plot points). And she cunningly weaves real historical data and figures into her fantastic plot, recalling Tim Powers’ magnificent fantastic alternate histories. She pulls off some other neat tricks, not least of which is to use plot devices that might threaten a reader’s suspension of disbelief, and then making them absolutely integral to the plot and thematic development.
This novel completely sidestepped my critical detachment. I had the sense that some of the concluding chapters felt a tad rushed, but that’s probably mostly a reflection of my desire for the book to have more pages in it. I’ m really a little surprised Dark Cities Underground didn’t win any of the major fantasy awards (it was a nominee for the British Fantasy Society Best Novel, but lost to Stephen King’s Bag of Bones).
needs more demons? nuh uh.