Constance Verity Saves the World by A. Lee Martinez: Connie Verity is trying to have it all — a personal life while saving the world on a regular basis

Constance Verity Saves the WorldConstance Verity Saves the World

by A. Lee Martinez
Series: Constance Verity, #2

Trade Paperback, 385 pg.
Saga Press , 2018<br/
Read: August 18 – 20, 2018

“It’s a problem I have. When you’re ten years old and dangling from a cliff while rabid hyenas circle below, you learn to be stubborn. You can’t quit, because quitting isn’t an option. You dig your fingernails and pray that root doesn’t come loose. And if it does, you plan how best to fend off hyenas when all you have is a Pez dispenser and a priceless diamond in your pocket. I fight. It’s what I do. It’s how I survive. When people turn and run, I go forward. It’s kept me alive so far, but it’s skewed how I look at things.

“Somebody tells me I can’t do something, I want to do it more. Want isn’t a strong enough word. I need to do it. Give me that big red button labeled DO NOT PUSH in bright neon letters, and I’ll push it every time.”

Having fought for the ability to have a normal life in The Last Adventure of Constance Verity Connie’s out to try to have one. Which is harder than saving the world a few times a week. She’s still saving the world regularly, as well as having all sorts of adventures. She’s trying to settle down with her boyfriend Byron the accountant, while relying on her best friend/sidekick Tia some more (all the while, Tia is trying to strengthen her relationship with her ninja-thief boyfriend, Hiro). There are evil geniuses, aliens, robots, and vampires living in her condo — all of them behaving themselves, thank you very much.

One of the activities that takes most of Connie’s time right now is trying to help out an old friend cleanup the supercriminal organization that he’s in charge of now that his mother has apparently died. There’s a lot of rogue agents, assassins and experiments that need cleaning up if the organization is going to be come a legitimate force for good — or at least not a force for evil and chaos in the world. Connie’s tempted to spend more time doing that than she should, to the detriment of her relationship with Byron. Thankfully, Tia’s there to help keep her priorities in order. Hopefully, that’ll be enough.

You ever find yourself eating something — say, some cake — and you’re not sure if it’s too rich, if the frosting is too sweet? And then you realize how stupid you sound? Wondering if the cake is too good? Well, that’s the experience I had with this (and, I’m pretty sure with the previous Constance Verity book) — where there too many quips? Too many (seemingly) random ideas, aliens, evil masterminds, robots, henchmen of a variety of stripes, strange occurrences? What a stupid thing to ask. Yeah, there’s a lot going on, but it actually doesn’t get to the overload status. It may come close, but it stays on the right side. It’s like asking if there are too many animated personages in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, if there are too many Easter Eggs in whatever your Super-Hero movie of choice is. No, there’s not — there’s a lot of good things that are fun. Shut up and enjoy.

Really, that’s the worst thing I can say about the book — occasionally, there are too many fun things happening. The pacing is great, the characters are rich, lively, and well-developed (including many of those only around for a page or so), you’ll laugh, you’ll be moved, you might even have a thought provoked. It’s just a charming book set in a delightful world.

Do not make the mistake of thinking this is a romp, just a free-wheeling ball of fun, snark and self-referential humor. It’s an A. Lee Martinez book, so yeah, there’s a lot of that — but laying underneath that is a good story, some interesting ideas about relationships, about trust, about fate. A whole lot of other things, too, I’m sure, but let’s stick with those. Too many people will read this, focus on the “fun” stuff and will miss the very thoughtful portions — it’s Martinez’ strength and weakness that it’s so easy to do with his works. There’s nothing wrong with a silly adventure story, and there’s nothing wrong with a book that’s about something. But when you have a novel that’s both — you should pay attention to both.

I knew Martinez could write a series if he wanted to — I had no idea what it was going to look like when he did. I’m glad I got the chance to find out. Constance Verity Saves the World is equal to its predecessor in every way that it doesn’t outdo The Last Adventure of Constance Verity — which is no mean feat. It’s fun, the characters are better defined and have grown some, and there’s never a dull moment. Constance Verity, the caretaker of the universe, the Legendary Snurkab, possibly the only woman with more titles than Daenerys Targaryen, is a character you need to get to know. Her sidekick Tia is, too. I cannot wait to see what the two of them do next.

—–

4 Stars

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The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez

I’ve been trying to finish this since September — thankfully, today being A. Lee Martinez Appreciation Day gave me the motivation.

The Last Adventure of Constance VerityThe Last Adventure of Constance Verity

by A. Lee Martinez
Series: Constance Verity, #1

Hardcover, 384 pg.
Saga Press, 2016

Read: September 8 -12, 2016

“I didn’t think you believed in jinxes,” said Tia.

Connie didn’t.

But she wasn’t so sure that jinxes didn’t believe in her, and they’d had a long, long time to build a grudge.

I go in to a Martinez book assuming I’ll like it, this one took less time than usual for me to know I liked it. Lines like that are just part of why.

Thanks to a gift from a fairy godmother, since she was 7, Constance Verity has been saving the world as she goes on unbelievable adventure after unbelievable adventure — she travels the galaxy, time, alternate realities and all over (and under) the Earth. She’s run into demons, aliens, wizards, killer robots, mad scientists and many more threats — and overcome them all. A couple of decades later, she’s starting to think that she’s missing out on something despite all the excitement. She’s missing out on being ordinary.

Haven’t you saved the world on multiple occasions?”

“That’s what people tell me, but I’m beginning to think that the world isn’t as fragile as all that. The universe got along just fine for billions of years without me. I don’t think it needs me to save it. I think it all works out about the same in the end. Sometimes, I like to think of myself with a dead-end job that I dislike, a husband who is letting himself go, and some ungrateful kids I take to soccer practice. It sounds dreary, but at least it would be my life.”

Connie doesn’t stop to consider if she’s really cut out for ordinary, but if anyone can rise to the challenge of normality, it’s Constance Verity.

So she and her sidekick best-friend, Tia, head out to get that normal life for her. Step 1: Kill her fairly godmother.

I really don’t know what to say about the book beyond this without getting into more details than I ought. I guess I could say a few things about character. Connie is a great character, for someone who’s lived a superhuman life, she’s really human. Tia is incredible — wise, funny, caring, a real good friend. The relationship between the two is almost perfect.

This is a typical Martinez — a strange combination of loony and thoughtful. You can laugh and then be struck by a profound thought within a couple of pages. This is a fun adventure (a handful, really), and a bit of a commentary on heroes, villains, tropes and themes in SF stories (particularly the pulp-ier variety).

This is the first installment in a series — which is something Martinez hasn’t done before — I have no clue how he’ll pull this off, the book ends like I’d expect a Martinez stand-alone to end, so I have no idea how he’s going to follow this up. But I cannot wait to see.

—–

4 Stars

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest
Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

Helen, a teenage minotaur and Troy, an impossibly above average guy are toiling away at a fast food restaurant until a god decrees they must go on a quest for him — retrieving several magic items, vanquishing various monsters, and generally staying alive.

Nigel, an accountant with a wife he’s scared of, turns to a motorcycle gang filled with other white-collar types looking to fill their humdrum lives with danger and excitement (oh, and all but one of them are oddly unassertive and non-homicidal orcs). Their god assigns them to put an end to Helen and Troy’s quest — by killing them.

Before the climactic battle between the questers and the orcs, Helen and Troy are deputized by a seemingly useless yet ubiquitous government agency that oversees quests. Then they meet an oracle working out of a food truck, some fates, pick up a three-legged dog, visit a nature preserve that’s a dragon sanctuary, and meet all sorts of interesting people and monsters — all while taking a fun road-trip in a classic car.

This is the whackiest, goofiest Martinez novel I’ve read — until the last 40 pages or so, where it gets deadly serious while retaining a sense of the absurd. But while doing so, it has some interesting things to say about things like destiny and fate and body image and stopping outside one’s comfort zone. There’s a touch of romance, a sense of wonder, and a whole lot of fun to be had.

Like every Martinez character, whether a rebellious daughter, a curious child, a would-be orc, a cyclops, or a meddlesome minotaur mother there’s a core of humanity, of decency, to be found. In a day when even Superman is turned into a grim figure, it’s very refreshing to see that.

Yes, it’s an adult book — but it’s one I’d have no problem handing off to my 11 year-old daughter to enjoy (probably her younger brother, too, I just don’t think he’d stick with it). Come to think of it, I will.

—–

4 Stars

Dusted Off: Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez

Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister BrainEmperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun read (not hilarious, as the cover implies–and I believe, Martinez tweeted he didn’t like the word)!

This tale of our solar system’s biggest supervillian, conqueror (and would-be conqueror) of planets, destroyer of armies, and uber-mad scientist reads like a semi-serious Douglas Adams book. All of the wit, all the imagination, all the “where did he get that loopy (and great) idea from?”, none of the compulsion to go for the laugh every x number of paragraphs. It’s a great look at what makes a supervillian of the evil-scientist variety tick.

I’ve read about half of Martinez’ works, and he seems to go out of his way to make each significantly different than the last–but there are certain hallmarks–they’re clever, very enjoyable, and they display an essential humanity in characters you wouldn’t normally sympathize with/think of in this way. Such a treat.

Dusted Off: Chasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez

Chasing the MoonChasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s so hard to write anything about Martinez’ work, because it’s just so weird. And I mean that in a good way. Comic, but rarely laugh-out-loud; SF/Fantasy/Supernatural-ish, but approachable for those who prefer to stay away from that; books that feel like they’re the start (or middle of) a series, but are all stand-alones. One thing that connects them all is the humanity of the characters–particularly the protagonists, but not entirely reserved for them. Whether we’re dealing with supernatural creatures (vampires, werewolves, etc.), witches, aliens, robots, extra-dimensional creatures, monsters, cult leaders, or just Average Joes/Janes caught up in all of the madness–his characters have heart and humanity that shine through like nobody’s business.

In this particular tome, Diana finds the perfect apartment for her needs and budget, almost too good to be true, and jumps at it. Then she finds out that the catch to this deal is that she’s just signed on to be the one thing that stands between the world at large and a monster named Vom the Hungering, who will (one day) devour everything in sight. Hilarity ensues.

To say more would ruin this light (but not too light), engaging and very fun read. Do yourself a favor and give it a shot.