Sunday, April 06, 2008
Snake Agent, by Liz Williams
With Snake Agent author Liz Williams introduces her readers to Detective Inspector Chen and the city of Singapore Three. Snake Agent opens with Chen in Hell, in captivity, hanging from his heels, and attempting to escape before something worse than being held captive in Hell occurs. The first chapter then jumps back a week earlier and after the tease of a prologue, the story begins. Detective Inspector Chen takes a job to rescue the soul of a young girl which has been waylaid on its way to Heaven. Meanwhile, Zhu Irzh, a Seneschal from Hell is tasked with taking that very soul to Hell. Not exactly the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but it will have to do.
Liz Williams imagines a world and a future where Heaven and Hell not only exist, but actively interact with humanity...quite naturally through layers and layers of bureaucracy. Souls really will go to either Heaven or Hell, and it is also quite possible that the method of transit depends on where you live and what, exactly, you believe. Technology will no longer be mechanical, but rather biological.
Snake Agent encompasses these ideas and much, much more, but what works about Snake Agent is not so much the details of the story, but rather how Williams tells it. The details, great as they are, are the window dressing to entice readers to open the book. Once readers do, and they should, the readers will find a mystery spanning both Earth and Hell, humans and demons, goddesses, lost and found souls, cover ups, Hellish conspiracies, an expansion on what exactly the mystery reveals, and nice detective action. But this is still the window dressing.
The deal is that with each revelation Liz Williams has things set up so that not only does the reader want to know more, the reader needs to know more. Snake Agent may begin with a "simple" mystery of locating a lost soul, but it quickly becomes so much more.
The simple answer to the question of "yes, but is it good?" is a resounding yes. It is.
Good enough that I will be looking for the next three volumes in the Detective Inspector Chen series in the very near future.
Reading copy provided courtesy of Night Shade Books.