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Hugh Likes Fiction: Waters of Versailles

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The Waters of Versailles
Written by Kelly Robson
Published by Tor
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In the court of Louis XV, any luxury can be had, for a price. But the one thing no member of the court can be without is one of Sylvain de Guilherand’s toilets. His remarkable engineering skills have restored the fountains, transformed the palace, and even added new conveniences to the pampered lives of the French aristocracy.
But his marvel isn’t just the result of hard work or genius. He’s keeping a secret; a nixie hidden in the palace cisterns. When the nixie’s keeper dies suddenly, the ambitious, self-centered Sylvain must learn to care for the little creature. Otherwise, the whole palace could flood.
Robson’s novella is a delightful romp. A look at the excess and inhumanity of the pre-revolution French nobility, woven expertly with Sylvain’s own growing concern for the creature he first only sees as a tool for his own advancement.
Waters of Versailles is a quick read, but is eloquently and expertly constructed. You can find it on tor.com, or buy the ebook on Amazon.

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Hugh Likes Fiction: Idle Ingredients

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Idle Ingredients (Sin du Jour Book 4)
Written by Matt Wallace
Published by Tor

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Matt Wallace is back again with the fourth course of his ‘Sin du Jour’ novellas. Each bite-sized course of these epicurean Urban Fantasy series is an utter delight, and I’ve been looking forward to this one. As usual, Wallace doesn’t disappoint.
Still reeling from their last big job in Los Angeles, Sin du Jour line chef Lena Tarr goes on the lamb. Bronko and Nikki bring her back to the kitchen on the very reasonable assumption that the armies of Hell that are after them will kill her without the protection Sin du Jour provides. But there’s a new face at the catering company, ‘Government liaison’ Luciana Monrovio and Lena is immediately suspicious of the hold she seems to suddenly have over all of them, particularly the guys.
This novella is a bit more serious than the last three, but that’s not surprising after the major throw down at the end of “Pride’s Spell.” The thing I did like about this one is that it packs in a lot of character growth for characters we haven’t seen too much of before. Darren gets some nice page time, and really starts to come into his own, even as Lena is shown as more vulnerable than we’ve seen her in the past, and planning assistant Jett gets a cool arc too. Wallace’s strength is in keeping all of his plates spinning so flawlessly. Sin du Jour, as in his previous novella series, Slingers, has a huge cast of characters. Matt manages to breathe life into all of them, and progress their individual stories, in a breathtakingly short amount of pages. Each bite-sized book contains more character growth and personality than your average doorstop fantasy epic.
Sin du Jour book four, Idle Ingredients, is out now from Tor. You can purchase it from Amazon or wherever you get books.

Hugh Likes Fiction: The Shootout Solution’ by Mike Underwood

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Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution
Written by Michael R. Underwood
Published by Tor
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Writing metafiction is a difficult needle to thread. Fiction about fiction can easily become maze-like and incomprehensible, and it makes the reader very aware of the author. By its very nature, it doesn’t suspend disbelief. Metafiction done well can be cathartic and clever. Done poorly, it just feels like a writer bragging about their MFA in literature. So I was a little leery approaching Michael Underwood’s “Genrenauts” novellas, but after finishing the first one, he’s managed to pull off something extraordinary.
Leah Tang is a standup comedian struggling to make her big break while holding down a boring day job she hates. When a strange man offers her a dream job, she is skeptical at first, but jumps at the chance.
She joins the Genrenauts. An elite, highly secret team that travels to parallel worlds and fixes problems before they bleed over into our world. Leah’s first mission is to help a desert town in Western World. But the Genrenauts don’t save the day. They put stories back on track, which is a much more difficult proposition.
Underwood’s concept of genres as alternate realities is fun and has a lot of possibilities to it. He gets to show off his own savviness with tropes and conventions, but giving these discussions to the characters rather than the narrator softens the rough edges. It makes for a quick novella read that gives old tropes new tricks. Making genres living, breathing worlds might not have worked in a longer book, but it sets the stage quickly and lets the reader get right to the plot without too much fuss here.
The other real strength is the Genrenauts team, whom the reader only gets introduced to here. Leah is the newbie on the team, and there are a lot of first impressions, but the characters seem to all have a lot of hidden depths. Putting them up against genres that often rely on stock, pulpy characters is an interesting dynamic.
Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution is a quick, delightful introduction to a novella series that is built on a great premise. I can’t wait to see what adventures the Genrenauts have ahead of them, and what other adventures they’ll have to fix. Genrenauts is available in ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, MichaelRUnderwood.com.