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Friday, November 24, 2017

Bookburners by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Francis Slattery

A story about a secret black ops organization at the Vatican that hunts down and neutralizes demonic books was an obvious thing to add to my reading list. Bookburners is the first "season" of a novel that was initially serialized on the internet; as such, it reads like a collection of short stories with an overarching plot that becomes increasingly important. 

The POV character is Sal, a NYC cop and non-believing Protestant who learns about the existence of demons, magical books, and demon-possessed magical books when her brother is ensnared by one.  In an effort to save her brother's life (and soul), she joins Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum. It's fast-paced and a lot of fun to read.

It's also quite smart.  The Church's take on magic is that it is too dangerous, too easily corrupted by demons, to use, but there are characters within and without (good, evil, and neutral) who disagree -- to them, magic is simply a tool, and humans should learn how to use it before it's too late.  But rather than fall into cliches about repressive institutions and freedom-loving individuals, the authors treat the matter quite seriously.  Both sides are heard, both viewpoints are respected, and the events depicted don't fully vindicate either take. 

This parallels the story's treatment of religious faith; Father Menchú's rock-solid faith, Sal's atheism/agnosticism, and Asanti's pragmatism are all treated fairly.  It makes for a refreshing take on the usual tropes, and I can't wait to read "season" two.

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