Daniel José Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues is a smooth launch into what promises to be a highly enjoyable series. While it doesn’t change much about urban fantasy, it’s a good example of how satisfying the genre can be.
Much of the genre’s appeal lies in the worlds created within the books, and Older’s is no exception as it draws on and creates mythologies outside the standard vampire/werewolf paradigm. When viewed through his idiosyncratic and inventive lens, our world acquires a supernatural landscape that allows Older to fill the book with what are sometimes called “eyeball kicks. Here’s a slice of Half-Resurrection Blues’ landscape:
The rain doesn’t land on my not-flesh, it sears right through it and leaves a tingling trail of sensation in its wake. I’m still marveling at the lightness, the dizzying freshness of being only spirit. . . ,
We’re moving fast, blazing through the darkness, like plastic bags blown by the wind. I get the hang of it pretty quick: thought controls movement. You want to go somewhere, you point yourself that direction and propel forward on the engine of your own desire to arrive. Our long, translucent legs lunge with graceful steps just above the pavement. We brush past some nightwalkers, a few crackheads, and a security guard on his cigarette break, and they each shudder and look around as we slither on by.
It’s also got a tough but flawed hero, Carlos, who knows nothing of his past other than he’s died and been revived. As a result, he’s now poised between life and death, working for the New York Coalition for the Dead. “Because I’m an inbetweener, and the only one anyone knows of at that, the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living,” he observes early on as we see him in action, trying to correct an imbalance.
Carlos doesn’t know who he was, and this, coupled with the lack of others like him, makes his life doubly isolated. When he runs into a brother and sister who are also inbetweeners, he’s pushed to find out the answer to the mystery of their shared origin, although he’s distracted from that hunt by a swarm of monsters led by an ancient sorcerer. Carlos is driven, courageous, and hard to put down, relating Half-Resurrection Blues in an engaging, first-person narrative. If I had to draw comparisons, I’d make them to Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, Seanan McGuire’s Incryptid series, and Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim. The prose is smooth and sometimes lyrical, and overall this is a solid, satisfying read.