Cybermancy, by Kelly McCullough
8/10, a solid, fun adventure in urban fantasy with great setting and characters.
Disclaimer: I read Kelly’s writings over at Wyrdsmiths and have corresponded with him.
When last we left Ravirn, McCullough’s hacker/spellcaster/immortal from Webmage, he’d defied his powerful ancestors, the Fates, who had in return cast him out from their family and given him a new name, Raven. It seems that the biggest difference with the new name is that it’s easier to pronounce(*), but while Ravirn thinks so, most of his friends seem to attach a greater significance to it.
(*) I know exactly how this happens. You’re writing a story, you’re trying to come up with a unique name for your protagonist, and you get this weird combination that ends up getting attached to the character. It sounds okay in your head and it looks great on paper, but you never really try to pronounce it aloud until you’re already well into the manuscript. Then you realize, hey, this might be a bit tricky, but it’s unique! it’s different! People will figure it out. And then the book gets published and everyone’s like, “is it RAY-vurn? rah-VEERN?” and some people come up with crap out of nowhere like, “well, according to the ancient Gaelic, it would be “chrah-VEYE-ur-enthch”,” and you just throw up your hands and say, “Okay, fine. It’s ‘RAVEN.’ It’s in the dictionary, you can look it up. Are you happy now?”
Anyway, Ravirn has a problem. His girlfriend, Cerice (“say-REESE”? “SEH-ruh-say”?), is uber-stressed about finishing her dissertation in computer science without her webgoblin/laptop Shara (“SHAH-rah”–sorry, I’ll stop now), who was sadly killed in the previous book. But hey, Ravirn and Cerice live in a modern world built on the underpinnings of the Greek mythos. So no problem: he’ll just go to Hades and get Shara back.
From there–and this is in the first few pages–the action rarely stops. When it does, it’s to explore the relationship between Ravirn and Cerice more deeply, and what’s great about that is that they feel like real people with real relationship problems and pitfalls. As I’m discovering is usual for McCullough, he fills his book with distinctive, likable characters, and of course, having grown up with D’Aulaires and working in software, I love his Greek Myth/twenty-first century Internet setting.
McCullough knows how to keep a story moving along, and behind the surface adventure of getting someone out of Hades, there are questions of relationship and identity to be addressed. Some of his resolutions may feel a bit like deus ex machina, but as Ravirn/Raven is a demi-god, that’s not entirely inappropriate. As with the first book in the series, “Cybermancy” is an enjoyable, fun read.