Hugh Likes Fiction: Envy of Angels

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Envy of Angels
Written by Matt Wallace
Published by Tor
What would you do for your dream job?  Two struggling line chefs are forced to grapple with that question when they are hired by Sin Du Jour, a very exclusive catering company with a most unusual clientele.
Sin Du Jour caters for demons.  And goblins, and a host of other supernatural creatures that the rest of the world thinks are myths.  But when Sin Du Jour is contracted to serve a post-treaty signing banquet for warring demon tribes, the menu might be more than they can stomach.
Filled with quirky characters, shocking twists, and clever high concepts, Matt Wallace’s Envy of Angels is a delightfully weird novella.  He has a wonderful talent of pulling out a new reveal just when you think the story has gone as far as it can.  It’s not an adventure so much as it is a magic show.  You keep turning the page less to see if the heroes will make it than to see what kind of three-headed fire-breathing rabbit Wallace will pull out of his hat next.
He mixes this with an ability to draw out sympathy for his characters in remarkably efficient language.  He can make you hate a character and then deliver a get-punch you never saw coming in the space of a single paragraph.  It makes for a fast read that is difficult to put down.
This brief and blustery novella might not be for everyone, however.  The short length and large cast means that as much as I was rooting for these characters, I didn’t get to know them quite as well as I’d have liked to.  We get one or two details, then the book barrels onward.  Much of the second act is also set away from the kitchen, which puts supposed main characters Lena and Darren out of the reader’s eye to follow another team of Sin Du Jour employees.  It still makes for an interesting read, but it isn’t a traditional narrative by any stretch.  The ending also feels a bit abrupt.
Even though it doesn’t quite fill the belly as much as a novel, Envy of Angels is a satisfying first course in Matt Wallace’s “Sin Du Jour” series.  Check it out in print or ebook!

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Hugh Likes Anime: Food Wars

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Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma
Studio: J. C. Staff
Streamed via Crunchyroll
When I was a teen, I was really into Iron Chef, a competitive Japanese cooking show which might be viewed as the forefather of most of the Food Network’s current lineup.  “Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma” is another descendant.  An anime based on manga by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki, it follows the adventures of teenaged hero Yukihira Soma through Japan’s most prestigious and rigorous cooking school.  Soma is the son of a competitive and mysterious diner owner, and he’s been cooking since he was a child.  At first, he looks down the other students, who’ve ‘never served a customer before,’ but as the series goes along, he learns a lot about cooking through competing with them.
Shokugeki no Soma falls in line with many of the tropes associated with anime aimed at teenage boys.  There are lots of nonsensical rivalries, training, and challenges to overcome while forthrightly contemplating philosophical points.  And also plenty of fan service.  These are certainly the first chef’s jackets that I’ve ever seen with cleavage.  But even the fan service has its own goofy charm.  The series is constantly searching for new ways to express culinary language visually.  These range from a group of people eating a pork-roast so good their clothes explode to a panel of judges piloting a lobster rocket into space.
The first season of Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma is currently streaming online at Crunchyroll, and is coming to DVD.  While the show ends at a bit of a cliffhanger, and a second season has yet to be announced, this is an excellent series for foodies and anime fans alike.  I’d like to give a hat tip to Jason Banks of the Talk Nerdy To Me podcast for the recommendation.
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