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The Narrows

Alex C Irvine
Del Rey (352 p)
$13.95. ISBN: 0345466985
(October 2005)

book cover Alex Irvine's third novel is based in an alternate World War II-era supernatural Detroit where golems are made with Kabalistic magic and American assembly line ingenuity at the Ford factory. (The Nazis are rumored to have enlisted the Frost Giants of Nordic myth and may be using werewolves in the Carpathians.) But the supernatural here seems as "real" as the mundane and the focus is not on the special effective monsters but on how individual humans (and the cities in which they dwell) are affected by forces, historical or supernatural, beyond their control. Jared Cleaves is a regular baseball-loving, beer-drinking joe, but his entire life has been shaped by a sinister childhood encounter with Rouge Nain, the mythic red dwarf whose appearances throughout history have presaged catastrophes for Detroit. Unable to serve in the armed forces due to a childhood hand injury, Jared works on the production line (the "frankenline") that secretly manufactures golems for the war effort. He still frets he's not doing enough to serve his country. To compensate, he naively becomes entangled in espionage, plots, and counter-plots that place him and his family in jeopardy. Irvine involves the reader by revealing only as much as his protagonist knows -- a riveting technique especially when combined with his smooth-yet-snappy style -- but when everything falls into place as chaos erupts at the end one may wonder if the author truly ties up all the interesting elements he's put into play. Still, Irvine is a joy to read. And, really, isn't that enough? -- (from CFQ Jan/Feb 2006)