So now we're on to the third book I brought home from Ad Astra, Nuekekubi Stephen B. Pearl. Only one more after this and I'll have gone through everything I brought home. (Yes, this was a light con for book purchases for me.)
So where to start with Nuekekubi? I enjoyed the book without being completely blown away. On the positive column is this is a fantasy/horror book that's actually set in Southern Ontario, which is bloody rare. Canadian authors seem to have generally not been encouraged to set their stories in their own backyards, with the exception of Robert J. Sawyer of course.
In addition to that, the story involves Japanese culture and mythology, which I've been fascinated by for years. The nukekubi that gives the story its title is a type of Japanese goblin that has its hands and head detach and fly around causing problems. So, another bonus.
Third in the plus column is I can see a definite improvement in Stephen's writing. The last book of his I read was Tinker's Plague, a post-apocalyptic story set in the Guelph area, and while it had an interesting premise the story suffered from an overuse of exclamation marks. This may seem like a minor technical item, but it put the emotional emphasis that should have been conveyed by the dialogue out of whack and raised things to the level of melodrama. Nukekubi avoids this mistake and that is a big step forward for Mr. Pearle.
The fourth positive aspect of the book is the open-minded nature of the characters, especially the narrator, Ray. I don't want to put a spoiler out there so let me just say this: Ray sees women as people, no matter their circumstances, and while he has romance issues they aren't of the standard Neanderthal man-cave dweller sort. That in itself is refreshing.
Fifth, this book has a great ending that I didn't see coming yet at the same time makes complete sense and is satisfying. Really, it works so well.
So with all the positives I've listed above why aren't I raving more about this book? I think it's more technical issues. At times the dialogue just didn't feel quite right, making some of the characters feel a bit off, and I didn't feel engaged enough by the magic system Ray and his colleagues use. These aren't huge issues, but they're the ones that stood out for me.
If you're a fan of urban fantasy or books set in Canada then I think this is one you should check out. The positives I've highlighted do outweigh the negatives.