Review: Crackle and Fire, Russ Colchamiro

Crackle and Fire, Russ Colchamiro, Crazy 8 Press

This very readable little book is billed as a science fiction detective story.  Ha!

OK. Here’s the scenario.  For a long time the world (OK, the universe) has been reasonably led and controlled by a broadly benign oligarchy of rich and powerful beings, “The Minders”. These beings live in their very own dimension (“Eternity”) which looks (to judge by the descriptions) more or less like California, by which I mean rather richer than here in Europe and with lots more weapons, classier technology, and more colourful skies, but otherwise pretty familiar.  

OK, so it seems that the Minders haven’t been managing quite perfectly and some unfortunate infighting and corruption have been leading to some governance glitches, but they’re doing OK.  Really. Yes, they’re the good guys. True, they do interfere pretty cynically in the rest of the universe, (mostly from a distance, with a great deal of secrecy and abuse of superpowers), but anyway, they feel entitled to, because really they own the universe (don’t they?) and from their perspective the rest of the universe is pretty backward and lame, so it ought to be grateful.  (Hmm. Feeling like I know this scenario.) 

Well, where the story picks up, this off-world paradise is unfortunately going pretty pear-shaped and it seems likely that the rest of the universe is going to feel the aftershocks.  Or get destroyed as collateral. There’s a conspicuous amount of climate degradation going on (represented in this case by disorderly planets and moons and galaxies, and the sky changing colour, and unexpected blackouts… you get the idea).  And the population of paradise is definitely going astray. Not realizing that the established and well intentioned people who’ve always been in charge before are really the good guys and were doing their best, the misguided populace is letting a load of crazy conspiracy theorists persuade them that they really don’t need the nanny state (sorry, “the Minders”) at all, and that they’d be better off without it. 

Just then – well blow me down! – along comes a deranged, narcissistic, power-crazy demagogue who hates the Minders with a vengeance because they’re better than him, and he’s more than ready to commit whatever crimes it takes in order to get control, whip up the crowd, channel the conspiracy theories and throw away the old world order for his own self-aggrandisement. (Oh what a thing to happen!)

All this leads to a lot of adventures for those (including our trusty heroine, Angela) who would really rather the world went back to how it was.  However flakey the old order was, the alternative now unfolding is very much worse.  And with the Narcissist setting light to most of the oil that there is in the universe and paradise going up in flames, (the writing must be pretty vivid you know, because I could swear I’d seen this on the TV recently…) they certainly aren’t wrong.

Let’s just be glad that it’s just a novel, eh?  How we love science fiction in difficult times: all so far away and fanciful. And this story reads well, carries you along. It’s kinda neat. Ends on a bit of cliffhanger though. Wonder how it’s all going to turn out….

(Good luck with the election, Mr Colchamiro.  All of us down here on Earth, by which I mean Europe, are seriously rooting for the Minders.)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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This review was undertaken as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour. I was happy to purchase the book myself.


Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.
Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.
He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

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