Glen Cook,
Angry Lead Skies
(Roc, 2002)

Glen Cook's Angry Lead Skies seems made for a summer action film. It's got a competent, though not brilliant private eye, a great cast of supporting characters, an alien invasion and sex. Lots of sex.

Also elves.

So maybe elves aren't standard blockbuster fare (though Lord of the Rings may change that). But Glen Cook puts fantasy through the conventional spin of detective novels so calmly that elves feel like a sensible part of a teeming metropolis.

For all the tension rolling around town, Garrett lives in an oddly non-threatening world. Maybe it's just because he's a native human in a society that directs most of its violence toward other races, but there's never a real feeling that Garrett might be killed or severely injured. He gets knocked out frequently, threatened constantly, and the nature of threats is generally unknown -- and yet there's never a sense of danger towards Garrett or his comrades. It's more than the basic rule of first person narration -- your hero can't be dead if he's telling the story -- but Cook has somehow created a world where every character feels permanent. It doesn't make the story any less entertaining, but it does separate it from detective dramas of the past where minor characters were deleted like the ink they were.

Aside from that, Angry Lead Skies embraces the rules of pulp fiction with a glee that sometimes enters self-parody. Garrett either sleeps with or has slept with every single woman he knows, with the exception of the one who cares about him. The cops are well meaning but just not clever enough to understand the complications of a private detective's life. It could become annoying, but Cook keeps the tone too light to ever take offense.

Angry Lead Skies isn't great literature. It is a lot of fun, the sort of book you can tap into and spend an afternoon with. There are some great mental images and interesting racial dynamics, and the secret plotting of horses is revealed. Pick it up before it gets the film treatment, so you can be there to say the book was so much better.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 4 January 2003

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