Friday, June 16, 2006

Another Look Again, or Re-Re-View

Wow, this place is dead. Deader than dead...I'm beginning to feel like an EMT, holding defibrilation paddles over the corpse of the SFB. OK, I know, web sites don't have corpses, and running electric shocks through servers is a very bad idea, but you get the image.

But this post isn't about the SFB, as much as I may feel like a fledgling necromancer of the Internet. I'm here with another book review. And, no surprise, it's a sequel...someone must have liked my review of the first Kitty Norville book, because I got an ARC of the next one.

So, here you go.

Kitty Goes To Washington
Written by Carrie Vaughn
Published by Warner Books

Well, this is a definite improvement. I said of Kitty And The Midnight Hour that it felt very much like a first novel: rough around the edges, inexperienced...you know what I mean. This time around, Carrie Vaughn isn't making those amateurish mistakes. For one, she's distanced the plot of the novel from the nomal Gothic-Punk tropes, by setting it in a place rarely seen: the halls of Congress.

Quick plot synopsis: Kitty Norville, host of the late-night radio show The Midnight Hour and the most well-known "outed" werewolf in the country if not the world, has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Senate to testify as an expert witness on vampires, werewolves, and everything else that they've only recently become officially aware of. Meanwhile, she encounters the Washington D.C. underground, including the local vampire Mistress, an entire community of lycanthropes (including a very attractive were-jaguar); and also the Washington D.C. aboveground: faith healers, Bible-quoting senators, and government branches with hidden agendas. Frankly, the aboveground is scarier.

As this is a sequel, I have to talk about it in those terms. I'd definitely recommend reading Kitty And The Midnight Hour first, because this book takes place roughly a month or so after that one, and the events from the first one still play in big-time. But this one's a much better novel. One of the largest complaints I had about Midnight Hour was the way Vaughn integrated several of the Kitty Norville short stories she wrote, which is to say, rather poorly. The stories, which took place in the radio booth and were about what Kitty did during certain shows, stood out. I get why it was necessary, or at least one of them (Kitty's outing) was, but it still didn't quite fit. Here, Vaughn dodges the bullet: where it's relevant, she puts in the radio show. Where it isn't, she writes around it, and in the back--at least, in the back of my ARC, but I hope it's in the final published copy too--she puts the story itself. That works rather well, and I liked this short story. It has to do with music, its effect on people, and demon-possessed punk rockers.

Vaughn seems to also have taken steps--positive ones--to weaken the comparisons with Laurell K. Hamilton and other writers of her ilk. For one, there's less sex in the book, and what is present isn't about animal sensation--this time, it feels like a relationship, not pure copulation. Similarly, there are fewer, and shorter, scenes from the wolf's perspective. Where the last book was about the human coming to terms with being a werewolf, and with other werewolves, this one is about the human trying to get "normal" humans to accept her, a werewolf's place in human society, and the importance of still being human, even when you're a werewolf, or a vampire, or the like.

From my own perspective, the book was interesting for another reason. You see, I just moved to the DC area to start a new job, so it was funny to read about Kitty sightseeing (of course she sightsees) at places such as NASA and the Washington Monument. Granted, I haven't had much time to do my own sightseeing yet, what with moving in, unpacking, buying lamps and food and bookshelves...you get the idea. But the irony hit home.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the book is perfect--there are flaws. A few places where I'm left wondering about the flow of events, some of the characters are a bit too flat, the plot and resolution is a little convenient, and several of the characters who made the jump from the previous book are changed around a bit more than I'd expect. But it's a very solid book generally, a worthy return to the universe. Apparently, Vaughn is planning a third novel. I'm looking forward to it.