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

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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.