Snodgrass, Melinda -- The Edge of Reason

I sense this is a story that has lurked in the author's brain for a long, long time. I say this because it seems kind of out-of-date.

This is urban fantasy where the dialectic is Unreason (superstition, religion, magic, the bad guys) vs Reason (rationality, science, no magic, the good guys). (But the good guys get to use a little bit of magic, because otherwise it wouldn't be urban fantasy.) This is preaching to the atheist choir (i.e. me), but unfortunately it's the most annoying kind: preaching which isn't very good. It's all broad strokes, like a mediocre episode of Star Trek TNG. (Yes I know who the author is.) The bad guys feed on fear and hatred, start wars, inflame religious fanatics, set off bombs, impede stem-cell research, and generally are responsible for anything that's ever annoyed a liberal. All religion belongs to that faction, except for some handwaved "some hippy cults preach compassion and love, and oh yes there was once an era of polytheistic tolerance and goodwill, remember?" Uh-huh. The good guys will Give Us The Stars(tm). I'll take that sort of thing from Diane Duane, who can infuse it with the love of actual technology and science and SF and so on, but here it's boilerplate. The protagonist starts out religious (Lutheran) and winds up indistinctly agnostic through an indistinct process of that's-where-the-plot-went. Also, there's an angsty character backstory which does not break new ground.

The book does some things right. The protagonist is a gorgeous blue-eyed platinum-blond cop with a delicate face and perfectly manicured nails, and also plays classical music; his name is Richard. I don't think I've run into that trope-and-gender combination before. His police department (Albuquerque) is plausibly full of non-cardboard human beings, acting in plausible cop ways; when they go investigate some trailer full of creepy magic they know they have to get a search warrant first. If the book has a saving foundation, it is the relationships between Richard and his family, particularly his father. By the end I was grudgingly on the book's side (and I see a sequel has appeared), but it is not the grand evocation of rationality in SF that the author clearly wanted.

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