Review: Uncanny Collateral
I’ve joined a podcast. If you’d like to hear, not just read, my thoughts on this book, check out the video below. You can also find the written review at TooManyThoughtsMedia.com
The best urban fantasy provides you with a familiar setting and then twists the familiar, offering us a world where the mundane meets the fantastic. In Uncanny Collateral, Alek Fitz is a reaper in a world where souls are the currency of the supernaturally wealthy. He moves through the modern world like the hard-boiled detectives of the 80’s. Less investigator, more tough guy who intimidates his way from clue to gunfight to clue until he either hits something bigger than him or finds a solution.
The story revolves around Alek’s job as a reaper, a kind of jack of all trades for powers and principalities that operate in the grey spaces of the world. His owner and employer sends half-ogre Alek after stolen souls—stolen from Death. With a huge payday for his boss, and the promise of weekend off for Alek, the reaper and his Jinn race around rural Ohio looking for the person crazy enough to steal from Death itself. Ohio proves to be an interesting setting, as I can’t think of a more mundane location for clashes of supernatural powers. McClellan uses the juxtaposition with the wilting rust belt to great effect.
Brian McClellan has history with the fantastic. I’ve greatly enjoyed his many novels in the Powdermage Series. His strength is likeability. His characters are the driving force of all his novels and Uncanny Collateral is no different. Alek Fitz has a great voice and his first-person perspective guides us through a world where it’s not unusual to see an imp at a bar, but it’s still exciting when two draugr and a necromancer try to kill you in a Starbucks.
Alek operates with a Jinn named Maggie, bound in a ring on his finger. She expresses herself as a voice in Alek’s head, providing him with supernatural surveillance and an interesting play by play to the story. The two have a nice back and forth that’s reminiscent again of those hard-boiled police stories without the obligatory sexual tension. Instead, they have a genuine friendship that carries through the story.
There are several moments where character choices or motivations left me scratching my head when there seemed to be more obvious and efficient options available to the characters. A secondary plot, focused on Maggie’s mysterious origins, seemed to be mostly a distraction, though it also offered a hopeful path to a sequel or additional stories. The world also seemed to have some space left for development with a slurry of supernatural figures from many different regions. In most of their interactions they mesh well, but there are a few that felt either out of place with the main character or just undeveloped possibly because of the available length of the novel. It’s a quick read, but McClellan doesn’t waste a word. There are moments of rest to manage the pace, but you can only breath so easy when literal Death is breathing down your neck.
I’m happy to recommend Brian McClellan’s Uncanny Collateral for those that enjoy urban fantasy or an old-fashioned slobber knocker of a detective story. Four out of Five.