I have been reading (and enjoying) the works of John Varley since the mid 1970’s. He is one of the very small handful of authors whose books I will purchase as soon as they come out because a) I want to encourage more books from the author and paying cash for the books is my way to let the author and publisher know that, and b) I can be pretty sure that I will get a quality, entertaining story.
Forty years later and that still holds true!
In Irontown Blues, Varley blends genres as this sci-fi story of a detective has a very classic noir feel to it. The story center around Christopher Bach, a former police officer now working for himself as a private detective. Being a PI and living in a world where you can manipulate things around you, he sets up his office to resemble the world of the tough PI’s from the old movies.
Keeping Bach company, and working alongside of him, is his dog, Sherlock. Sherlock is a CEC — a Cybernetically Enhanced Canine. He is enhanced enough that part of this story is narrated by Sherlock (though transcribed by someone else). Bach doesn’t seem to realize just how smart Sherlock is, though that will change over the course of the investigation.
At the start of the story, Bach (and Sherlock) are visited by a woman…er…a dame…who is asking for the PI help to track down a man who gave her an unwanted case of leprosy. The leprosy itself is not that big a problem – she’ll regenerate new limbs as necessary, of course. But Bach’s investigation into finding the bio-hackers takes an unexpected turn and Bach – and Sherlock – will need to take advantage of every possible resource to get out of trouble. But then…will they really want to…?
One of the things I love so much about Varley’s writing is that it is extremely accessible and yet there are layers that are surprising upon reflection. On the surface this reads like a fun sci-fi mystery in noir fashion. And that’s what it’s supposed to read like. And there are the CTPP (Cool Things Per Page) items that make you nod and think ‘ah, that’s pretty cool’ and then there’s the real story that surfaces the closer you get to the end.
Varley creates interesting, real, dynamic characters (even dog characters) that you can easily rally behind and care about. His world building is, as it has been in every work of his I’ve read, tremendous – again, it might appear simple on the surface, but scratch that surface and you will come to see the depth that Varley works in.
Fans of the genres will get a kick out of his homages to some of the legends in the business.
I am thrilled that John Varley is still writing and thankful to Ace for publishing this.
Looking for a good book? Irontown Blues by John Varley is a book you will feel good about reading and you’ll likely want to recommend it to everyone you know. If you’ve never read Varley before, this is a great place to start. If you are already familiar with Varley’s work you know that you’re in for a good time.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: John Varley
paperback, 304 pages