Series: 'Mancer #2
Published by Angry Robot on October 6th 2015
Our reviews of this author: Fix
The Flux is a great second book I really enjoyed it and so was even more pleased to find that a third book is planned.
Just a quick warning. This review may contain spoilers for Flex so if you’re intending to read that, which I wholeheartedly feel you should, then you should stop reading about now.
The Flux starts a short while after the conclusion of book No.2. Aliyah is now 8 years old and her mancy powers make her something of a handful to manage. Forget the terrible twos. Try denying anything to a child who can simply create a portal of her own and waltz straight out of her bedroom whenever she likes. Grounded? I think not. Aliyah’s parents have divorced and Imani is now married to David. He’s a bit of a cold fish and not content with taking Paul’s wife seems hellbent on taking much more.
Paul, following his heroics at the conclusion of Flex where he brought Anathema’s grand plans to a dramatic halt (albeit with the help of his daughter who’s own magic remains a secret to everyone else except Valentine), now heads up the task force who track mancers. Of course, being a mancer, and not wishing to be caught and brainwashed, Paul uses every trick in the book to fail. Of course his failure is becoming tiresome and at the end of the day there’s always somebody else willing to step up and try.
At the start of the book we have Paul and Valentine cooking up a batch of flex (a powerful drug created by flux, flux being the side effect to using flex. That sounds a bit convoluted so basically every time somebody uses magic there is payback and this payback usually strikes those that the magic wielder loves most). Unfortunately, following a tip off from the mysterious King of New York. The task force have honed in and are about to try and apprehend the pair. Paul and Valentine decide to try and fake their way out of a tight spot using some hastily thrown together by Valentine backed up by some quickly drawn up paperwork cobbled together by Paul when they’re hit by a massive fireball announcing not only the arrival of Aliyah but also the start of things exploding. Aliyah is determined to protect her daddy! Of course this sees the start of all sorts of difficulties that I wont elaborate on because, go and read the book!
I’m not going to deny that I went into this story with raised expectations and I did in fact wonder how the author could possibly sustain the level of enthusiasm that I felt for the first book but he actually did manage to do just that. In a rather cunning ploy FS brings not only all sorts of game references and characters into play once again but also creates something of a film geek fest and in fact uses the love of films to create a different sort of mancy. Colour me happy! Even more so using the plot from a well known movie to parallel the story here. It’s superb. In creating mancy Steinmetz has given himself such limitless scope. He can create all sorts of references that will appeal to different people but also given himself free reign to come up with super obsessed evil baddies. I love it. I don’t think it’s necessary to recognise all the references, not at all, and doubtless I missed a few, but when you read the ones you know it gives you such a laugh out loud moment and really injects the story with something else.
To the characters. At the start of the story it feels like Paul is gradually being diminished. He’s already lost his wife, his work is going badly and his daughter seems to be surpassing him in ability and to an extent losing respect. But don’t be fooled. Whilst Paul’s magic seems tame compared with most of the others it’s actually subtly ingenious. Perhaps not the explosion of fireworks that Aliyah creates or the fun game worlds that Valentine pulls out of the hat but in a world where most people leave a paper trail, bureaucromacy is very effective. Valentine is an amazing character. She’s so full of passion for what she does and who she is that she’s a force of nature waiting to happen. She loves Paul and Aliyah and is very protective of the small unit they have created. She’s about to gain a love interest in this book, called Tyler, a very interesting character, and just to be clear, this doesn’t make this a romance! Then of course we have the maniacs of the piece. One of them very obvious and one of them not as immediately apparent. I won’t go into names as that would be to deny you the surprise of discovery.
In terms of criticism. I don’t really have anything. I think that after the very dramatic and horror filled start of Flex which grabs you and shakes you so unexpectedly you could say that Flux has something of a tamer start. But I think it’s very appropriate and allows you to stop for a moment and get more of a feel for the characters. That isn’t to say that the action is in short supply but the author takes the time to show you more of how Aliyah feels. She’s been through a lot of trauma and in fact already killed somebody, an event that has had a massive mental impact on her. On top of that she has found herself the wielder of great magical power that really could turn her head. Paul also suffers unimaginable guilt and will go to all sorts of lengths to secure his daughter’s happiness. In fact you could accuse him of forgetting to be a parent at points and I wanted to shake him myself on occasion! Valentine also is desperate to retain the friendship and closeness she values but is also in need of something more in her life. They all have things to lose and for a while these fears drive a wedge between them.
All in all this is a great story. It expands on the possibilities and has a great plot, excellently written and easy to imagine action scenes, fun, heartbreak and loss. It’s very entertaining and has a really addictive comic book/super hero feel to it and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you. Explosively good fun.