Simon R. Green, The Man With The Golden Torc (Roc, 2007)
Meet Eddie Drood. As a field agent for the powerful, enigmatic Drood family, he helps take care of problems that might otherwise threaten humanity. Demon possession? Werewolf attack? Rogue mage? You name it, if it's evil and/or weird, chances are good a member of the Drood family, clad in their distinctive, invulnerable golden armor, will kick down the door and blast it to hell and back. Eddie's one of their best agents, but he's something of a malcontent as far as the family is concerned, actually choosing to live on his own, as opposed to with the rest of the huge family in their sprawling ancestral estate. Frankly, Eddie likes it that way. Just because he works for his family doesn't mean he particularly likes or trusts them. And when an urgent summons brings him home, he finds out the hard way just what the Drood family does to those who don't toe the party line, after they set him up for a suicide mission . . . which he survives against all odds.
Now, officially designated as a rogue, Eddie Drood is on the run from everything. His own family wants him dead, and they'll stop at nothing to bring him down like a mad dog. Worse yet, there's any number of other factions out there who would both jump at the chance to get some payback against the infamous Droods, and a chance to curry favor with that same family. You know it's bad when the only person Eddie can trust is Molly Metcalf, a wild witch who's tried to kill him numerous times over the years. Together, in order to figure out what's really going on, Eddie and Molly will face off against any number of threats, before daring to challenge the Droods themselves. And in doing so, they'll uncover a secret hidden for centuries, one which has allowed corruption to flourish at the heart of the Drood empire. Everything Eddie Drood knows is wrong, and now it's time for some payback.
Take some James Bond, and throw in some of Green's own Nightside, and mix liberally with the epic over-the-top action of his Deathstalker novels, and you're somewhere in the right neighborhood for describing The Man With The Golden Torc . It has everything one comes to expect from Green's work: distinctive characters, stylized ultra-violence, more mad ideas per page than most writers get in a lifetime, and a wild roller-coaster plot that doesn't let up. His is a bizarre, exciting, neon-lit, blood-drenched world where all sorts of things go bump in the night, and where werewolves and vampires are positively mundane compared to Solomon Krieg, the Golem with the Atomic Brain, for instance. You've got your overly-powerful, utterly-terrifying, intensely-competent hero who faces off against overwhelming odds every day before breakfast. You have the antisocial, violent, capricious love interest. You have all sorts of throwaway strangeness that wanders across the page, such as Carnivores (sentient meat-eating cars), dragon-riding elves, and the Flying Saucerors (mages in flying saucers, no joke). And then you have the really weird characters, like Girl Flower (a plant elemental made up of rose petals and owl claws), Digger Browne (a ghoul with unsavory appetites), Subway Sue (who steals luck from those riding the subway) and Mr. Stab. Yes, Mr. Stab. In a rare naming misfire, Green tosses in an immortal serial killer who calls himself Mr. Stab. And for that, I mock him. Because Mr. Stab is silly compared to Green's usual secondary characters. Luckily, that's all balanced out by the extreme coolness of Solomon Krieg, the Golem with the Atomic Brain.
But before I get further distracted, let me get back on track. The Man With The Golden Torc is, in all ways, the quintessential Simon Green book, full of attitude and action, wholly encompassing the "wide-screen" concept. This book goes up to eleven, and then twelve, just to prove it can be done. If you're at all familiar with Green's stylistic quirks, you'll probably have fun recognizing them in this book. What's important, though, is that this is high-octane, no-holds-barred, epic urban fantasy, in which unstoppable golden-armored warriors do battle with ancient evils and one another, and in which just about anything can and does happen. This is the start of a whole new series, one which promises to further riff off the James Bond mythos in new and exciting ways. It's all kinds of awesome, and I'm hooked for as long as Green feels like entertaining us in this fashion.
[Michael M. Jones]