Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

Flex Book Cover Flex
Ferrett Steinmetz
Urban fantasy
Angry robot
March 3rd 2015

Obsession is magic.  You obsess enough, love something obsessively enough, it can become a power to wield, tearing right through things like physics.  Felinomancy,  deathmetalomancy, artomancy, videogamemancy - every flavor imaginable.

It is, however, not an entirely common thing. And after what happened to Europe, 'mancers are hunted. Killed or hauled away to be put under control.   Some of them really are criminals; they've distilled their magic into a drug,  transferring an unflavoured kind of power to normals.

And then the normals learn that there are some laws;  Any gain must be followed by a loss. After the flex comes the flux.

Protagonist Paul Tsabo  was entirely unprepared to find out there was anything exeptional about him. All he has in his life is paperwork. Forms and check-boxes and signature fields.  Bureaucracy, that's what he does - and he does it well.

What can you really do with that kind of specialized power, though? He can't save his daughter from being hurt and injured by somebody else's out-of-control flux.

Maybe he could save her from death.  Maybe he could get some kind of revenge.

How far do you get with the magic of rules and regulations when facing down people who will have nothing to do with them?


I loved Flex.  All the thumbs up and all the stars checked.  It was really an easy book to love, for many reasons, one of which I tweeted somewhat incredulously: "This book has a female character who gets to be described as pudgy AND pretty with no BUT inbetween the two?!".

And that's just the tiniest little happy thing about this read.  (But I encourage you to dwell on it, because that character is so, so rare.) They are great characters, I believe in all of them - maybe a little brighter and with more visible inked outlines than most,  in a way that reminds me of Lauren Beukes' first couple of novels.   A little sprinkling of at-his-most-coherent PKD, even. The magic system is hallucinatory and delightful. I have SO much ooh and aah for this.  Flex is a debilitating punch in my happy-dork-grinning face,  and... well, I intended that to sound like a good thing, because it is.    About the prose, you may simply infer that it works seamlessly with the content - I never stopped to think about it, which is, by all accounts, a positive review.

I'm also very much aware there's some nice and roomy plot space at both ends in which both prequel and sequel would fit comfortably.   Just sayin'.

So.  Did you like Moxyland and Zoo City? Maybe you've been enjoying Seanan McGuire? Or perhaps curious about urban fantasy with fewer vampires and more nerds?  Or - just find the idea of a bureaucromancer entirely irresistible?   Read it! Go!

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