Last Call Rothdas book review RSS
1.0 Stars

Yurghhh. I'm not sure if it is the author or just my own baggage, but this book did nothing for me. The basic story is a sort of Unknown Armies type situation set in Las Vegas, with a sort of sub-par No Country For Old Men type urban hunting between different groups as they try to achieve their different archetypes. This could have been good! However, there were a number of things about the story and the writing that either rubbed me wrong or were just completely inert. I started reading smaller and smaller slices of the book, until at page 270 I finally gave up.

Since I don't have much good to say about the book, let me just start listing flaws.

1) The magic system is kind of terrible. The basic idea is that their are mystical archetypes in the world, based off of the tarot, and that by studying/manipulating poker cards (a simplified tarot), you can interact with these archetypes and perform magic. Unfortunately, the magic doesn't seem to be very useful. You never really see the magic doing anything, except to help locate other people who have identified with one of the archetypes. There is a suggestion that being the King archetype brings business success, but it also means that there is a constant stream of people trying to kill you and take your place. And being King doesn't really provide any special powers; one of the King's is simply shot by a random person he happened to to have offended. So it's unclear why someone would follow the King path, rather than just applying to Harvard Business School. Ok, ok, so the current King is using the magic system to extend his life, but given the constant danger of being shot, it seems like the expected lifespan of such a course would still be less than the MBA option. In addition to being mostly useless, the magic didn't really make sense. For instance, at one point the ghost/simacrulum of the protagonist's dead wife starts to come back and solidifying in their old house. Why? Eh, it's not really clear. And then a lot of the magic is just silly, like where they attach poker cards to their car tires in order to produce a sort of mystical chaff. This stuff was particularly bad for me, since I'm already very familiar with Artesia's awesome and well thought out Tarot-based magic system. And I'm already familiar with Sean Stewart's _Galvestion_, which combines poker and great writing and powerful magic with an entirely understandable sort of dream logic.

2) The lore is kind of terrible. In addition to the tarot, there are these constant references to Authurian Legend and the Fisher King and such. In my life I've had to wikipedia the Fisher King ~5 times, because each time I read about it I become so bored that I immediately forget what it was about. I feel pretty much the the same about Authurian myths, so basing a story around them really doesn't do much for me. I would have preferred more modern day archetypes, like Unknown Armies uses. Also, the constant allusions and poetry drops reminded me a bit too much of some of the lower tier Stephen King stories.

3) The characters are kind of terrible. The evil King is really not that bad once you get to know him. He kills a few people, sure, but he didn't strike me as significantly worse than a non-mystical Las Vegas mobster. And he's certainly not the magnitude of evil you would get with a Dick Cheney or Soulblighter type character. On the flip side, the protagonists never did much for me either. Again, there's a kind of low end Stephen King vibe to them. They each have their roles in the story, and they perform them dutifully. For instance, it is time for the protagonist lady to leave her significant other, and go away and fall in love with the other protagonist she hasn't seen in 20 years. This takes all of maybe 2 pages to perform, and it has about as much realism and nuance as Draco Malfoy bullying Harry Potter. Another canker is that at several points the author will introduce characters who have no relation to the current storyline. He will then water them with occasional boring excerpts, with the thought that maybe, eventually, they will actually join the main storyline. It's like GRRM's new character disease, except Tim Powers doesn't even bother introducing the new characters to someone we care about first.

Anyway, I could see that if you had not read Galveston, or Artesia, or Unknown Armies, or No Country for Old Men, or Afro Samurai, or if you cared about Authurian myths, then this book might be enjoyable. And yes, I know that chronologically _Last Call_ came before some of these books. But in my own experience though he came after them, and I couldn't help but read _Last Call_ as a collection of parts that other authors have done better.