No Hero / Jonathan Wood

Jonathan Wood wrote Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle (link is non-working; hopefully E.V. will get migrated over soon) which appeared in in Electric Velocipede’s Winter 2008 issue. I thought the story deserved to be in a Year’s Best anthology of some sort.

Used to be when a reader found something good they would search for books that author had written. That happens still, but these days I more often find their blog or Twitter account and follow them. When they talk up their next project, if it sounds like something I would enjoy I will then pick it up. Mr. Wood’s book No Hero was on sale late this summer when he promoted it on Twitter and jokingly said if it worked he would set himself up as a social media guru. Being the smart-ass I am, I replied that I couldn’t in good conscience help anyone else become a social media guru. I did buy a copy, however. Authors, please don’t make me choose between your book and making you into another Sanford Smith.

Cover of No Hero

Detective Arthur Wallace and his partner Allison Swann of the Oxford Police Department investigate a series of murders where each victim has his head sliced open. Through smart thinking, they determine the pattern and arrive at a building just as victim number seven is getting his head sliced off by a woman wielding a sword with superhuman speed. And she notices them, quickly advances and slides her her sword through Wallace’s chest.

When he awakes in the hospital, Wallace has a mysterious visitor. Felicity Shaw is the director of MI37 and she wants Wallace to join her agency. MI37 isn’t your regular military intelligence agency. When extra-dimensional aliens attack, MI37 steps in. Wallace doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but he joins anyway. MI37 doesn’t have many resources due to budget cuts, so Shaw names Wallace a team leader on his first day. Not knowing how to act, Wallace often takes his inspiration from Kurt Russell.

No Hero is a fun book. Think of The Laundry series with less snark about the office and more … well, Kurt Russell. I loved Arthur Wallace. I loved Allison Swann even more. It’s too bad she wasn’t picked to join MI37, because she doesn’t have Wallace’s occasional bouts of I don’t know what I’m doing pathos. The best scenes are when Wallace doesn’t know what to do, but he does something anyway. In one early scene Wallace attempts to fight a demonic enemy with a rubber handled crowbar. If Wallace can separate the fellow from the car battery that powers his spells, the good guys win. Things do not go well for Wallace in this case. But the key is he is interesting when he powers through his cluelessness.

Three secondary characters provide a lot of color. Cranky Tabitha researches everything for the team, and is their primary radio backup. Clyde appears at first to be another desk-bound type, but he’s embedded electric wires under his skin to transmit magical power. His bouts of indecision fit his character much better than the similar ones that plague Wallace. Kayla is the superstar of the group. She has superhuman speed, strength and is pretty impervious to injury. But she also freezes up in a fight. All of them do this. Men In Black they ain’t, which is why they need Wallace.

Also, since this is urban fantasy, there’s even a love interest. Yup.

From his Twitter I see that Mr. Wood has at least one more book planned in the series.

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