20 August, 2012

Review - Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne

Nick Monday is a private investigator on the outside, but what he really does is poach luck. That's right, he is one of a very few people who can steal other people's luck and then sell it.

Good luck comes in different grades, low, medium, and Top-grade soft. Each grade can mean different things to different people, but those with Top-grade soft are those who will be the only survivor of a plane crash or the winner of the $33 million jackpot lotto and so on.

Top-grade soft is also worth a ton on the street, which is why it's so hard to get despite the fact that people with this type of luck are easy to spot - they usually make it on the news in some way or another. But there are other poachers as well.

Along with good luck, there's also bad luck, but it's not something most luck poachers want to get remotely close to. It can stick with you for a while and the results are never good (as you can imagine).

This premise alone made Lucky Bastard [US] [UK] a must-read for me, I had to see how this concept was realized. And it works...mostly.

There's lots of humor in Lucky Bastard and for the most part it hits its mark. Told in first person, Nick Monday is your typical wise-cracking urban fantasy protagonist in many ways. So much so that at times it does start to get on your nerves.

For instance, this was used a ton, and I mean, a ton. There will be a paragraph describing the situation or some concept such as physics or math or grammar followed by a single sentence paragraph.

"I was never good at [insert subject]."

I've read plenty of books, especially of the urban fantasy type (but especially of the first person narrative type) that use this and maybe my time with urban fantasy has gone on too long, but this was just over-used by far.

Luckily (get it?), this wasn't the only use of humor and otherwise Nick Monday always won me back in the humor department.

Another thing I had a hard time with was a bit of an inconsistency in the logic of the premise. When people lose their good luck, for some reason their life essentially spirals out of control, especially those with the best kind of luck. For instance, the mayor loses his luck and suddenly he loses his position and anything good in his life.

With the existence of bad luck, it just didn't make sense to me that suddenly without your luck, you get bad luck?

For the most part, the whole luck thing works really well and this is only something small that I was able to get over pretty quickly, especially with how well this was written and how likeable the protagonist is.

It could also just be me because all luck is treated more or less as a drug and the different types of luck do different things. So it was probably explained away in there somewhere, but this bothered me for a just a bit...until I got over it.

Because it really is easy to get over any quibbles you have with an interesting premise like this and an easy-going and often hilarious protagonist. Lucky Bastard's a great read that's hard to put down. I did have some problems, but they were relatively easy to get over because the whole novel flows so smoothly and it's hard to put down.

I debated whether this could be turned into a whole series and while it definitely could, I really think this new/shiny/cool premise would get a bit old after this. Then again, Browne's shown himself to be quite capable, so I could be wrong.

One last thing to address before I finish is the action. I mentioned that this book was hard to put down and that's in large part because Monday goes from one problem to the next, none of which is really his own doing...well...that's not entirely correct, but I don't want to spoil things too much.

Like any good urban fantasy, one problem piles on the other and while it was well-handled in this book, there was also a lot of time where Nick Monday was being carried/carted/drugged/dragged away to some other boss/agency/etc. A LOT of time. Every time you turn around he's being taken in by another of his multiple problems and it seemed like a lot of Monday's time was really not in his control.

Obviously this also shows the deftness of Browne's hand at shaping this fun narrative while his protagonist's choices were cut down left and right. And the premise itself helps to explain it away as well. It's all luck.

I know I had a fair share of complaints, but the book was so easy to read and so much fun in a very many parts that I would definitely recommend it to anyone remotely intrigued by the premise.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (Recommended!)


Bastard said...

Seems like a book I should look into.

Ben said...

If you enjoyed this premise you should check out the 2001 film Intacto. Max von Sydow plays the luck-hoarding villain. Really cool flick.

Bryce L. said...

@Bastard - True story, I really do think you'll like it a lot.

@Ben - Will definitely do so, thanks for the heads up. I had no idea such a thing existed.