When I grabbed this book, I was looking for something a little different than the last few I’ve read. This is very much that and that’s 100% a compliment.
The urban fantasy subgenre is one that I find equally fascinating and frustrating. After I read Neverwhere for the first time I wanted to devour all of it. It was new and different from the high fantasy I had been reading for years. Well, now it’s not so new and I’m still searching for the different. Back when Rhode Island still had useful bookstores, I could peruse the SF/F shelves and they would be inundated with books written by men and women who clearly watched a metric ton of Buffy. Don’t get fooled by Discount Armageddon. Yes this book is a girl kicking supernatural ass just like Buffy was, but it has a scope and a voice vastly different and way too cool to pass up on.
Let me talk about the scope first. There is talk of magic in this book but it’s very minor and used almost offhandedly. This book is all about a human ass kicker and cryptids. “What’s a cryptid?” Bigfoot. There. I just explained it. A better definition? Fine. They’re creatures that science hasn’t proven if they exist. So bigfoot. Want the typical vampires or werewolves? Move along. The creature cast here is large and one of my favorite parts is that a lot of them were new to me. Ever heard of an ahool or a waheela? Me neither so I thought it was pretty damn cool that they were hanging out in New York. On top of these creatures I’ve never heard of there are ghouls and boogeymen and bugbears. It’s like the D&D monster manual is thrown in for good measure. I’m all for this. In a way the cryptid diversity makes the world of this book a bit more realistic.
What do I think is the other biggest selling point to Discount Armageddon? It’s the voice this is written in. The first thing you read is on the unnumbered page before the prologue. I’m just gonna quote it. “Cryptid, noun – 1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E Wall in 1983. 2. That thing that’s getting ready to eat your head. 3. See also ‘monster.”
Delightfully irreverent and exactly what you’re in for. The book is told from the point of view of Verity Price, the aforementioned ass kicker. She’s snarky and blunt and completely refreshing. Verity is the kind of person that would fit in with my friends so it made for an easily accessible read even though I’m not freerunning across Manhattan or ballroom dancing or kicking ghoul face.
So what does the refreshing Verity Price and her casting of characters do? Well she’s a west coast girl who went to NYC to make her own way in the world as a professional ballroom dancer at the same time as being a cryptozoologist. An ass kicking cryptozoologist, don’t forget that. She watches out for the good cryptids and roughs up the bad ones, preserving the ecology of New York. I really liked how humanity was a part of the ecology of the city. She meets Dominic, part of the faction her family left generations ago because they like to kill all the cryptids, no questions asked. He’s a noob and while she’s not, she is separated from her normal support network in a new city. Now a lot of cryptids are disappearing and she thinks he’s killing them and he thinks she’s tipping them off to get out of Dodge. Now add sewer lizard men. And a dragon.
The character progression through the book is logical and satisfying. The minor characters are interesting without being distracting from the main characters and story. McGuire has written other short stories set in the same world (available here) and it is clearly going to be a series. I’m quite happy with this.
Now go read it. It’s thoroughly awesome.