The Shambling Guide to New York City

WARNING: MILD SPOILERS

One of my most enjoyable recent reads was this fine novel by Mur Lafferty. Coincidentally, it was also one of my favourite birthday presents this year.. In addition, Mur is podcasting the chapters week by week, which you can search for in your podcaster of choice, or find here: murverse.com

In the interests of full disclosure, I should also mention up front that I'm a fan of Mur's podcast "I Should Be Writing", her soothing tones as she talks through her own creative challenges, and more recently, her feelings following the publishing of the new novel, are a balm for my own creative angst.

 I always find it difficult to review a novel without significant spoilers, so I'll keep this review brief.

The TL;DR version of the novel is something along the lines of young woman in search of direction lands a new job with unexpected co-workers, shenanigans ensure, but this really doesn't do justice to what is a well-written and enjoyable story..

I found myself interested in the main protagonists, though with so much to introduce the reader to, and so many characters who have their parts to play, there wasn't enough depth for most of them. I hope to learn more in future 'shambling guide' novels (and, I think, the potential will exist in the future for spin-off novels for some of the more interesting characters..). This wasn't a bad thing in the context of the novel per se, because it didn't detract from the story - it was more that the brief sketches were well-formed enough to leave me wanting to know more about the characters..

The story arc for the main character is an interesting one, that leads the reader by the hand as she learns more about the world she finds herself in. I found myself hearkening back to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman at points in the story, with the idea of the world beneath the skin of the world we think we know, and I think it's an idea that still has much to offer the reader, with the dissonance between what we think we know and the true nature of things - something that drives artists and scientists alike..

Probably the one weakness, to my mind, was the main 'villain' of the novel, and how they tied so neatly into the backstory for Zoe. It felt a little contrived, whereas the rest of the novel flowed well as Zoe learns more about the world and herself, and grows in both confidence and strength.

I strongly commend both the novel, and the associated podcast, as well-worth the time for any reader of fantasy novels.. (I recommend reading the novel, then listening to the podcast to hear Mur give the story her voice - she is an experienced podcaster, and her telling of the story will only enhance your enjoyment of this work..)

I'm already looking forward to the next instalment.