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Review of Slab City Blues: The Collected Stories by Anthony Ryan

Review of Slab City Blues: The Collected Stories by Anthony RyanSlab City Blues: The Collected Stories by Anthony Ryan
on October 1st, 2015
Genres: Sci-Fi
Pages: 434


WELCOME TO THE SLAB. A vast orbiting slum where rats grow big, sweat falls in rain and the gene-spliced come in all shapes and sizes.

Slab City Blues - There’s a stranger on the Slab, a stranger with very sharp claws and a penchant for killing assassins. Finding him is the job of Inspector Alex McLeod, detective, disfigured war veteran and reluctant widower. Some days are worse than others on the Slab but today is going to be a gem.

A Song for Madame Choi - An old enemy embroils Inspector Alex McLeod in the hunt for a kidnapped girl. With no leads he finds himself reluctantly seeking help from drug dealer and fellow war veteran Madame Choi. But can he really trust her?

A Hymn to Gods Long Dead - Inspector Alex McLeod, recently suspended for excessive force and nurturing a growing addiction to bourbon, has been reduced to tending bar when an improbably beautiful vampire comes to him with a bizarre theory: there’s a killer on the Slab, a killer with a liking for recreating ancient myth, in bloody and spectacular fashion. But who exactly is this vampire, and how does she know so much? And what kind of killer can walk through security systems without a trace, leaving deadly traps for those hunting him?

The Ballad of Bad Jack - The Asteroid Belt, home to mining corporations and those who prefer to live beyond the heavily policed habitats of Earth orbit – the perfect hunting ground for Bad Jack, captain of the Dead Reckoning and the most feared pirate in the solar system. About to embark upon the biggest job of his career, Jack finds himself in need of a specialist, but is unaware his latest recruit has a new face, a new name and an agenda of his own. Chief Inspector Alex McLeod has been reset to war mode, and things are about to get very ugly. The fourth story in the Slab City Blues series, The Ballad of Bad Jack is an all-action future-crime thriller from the best-selling author of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy.

An Aria for Ragnarok - Alex McLeod has a score to settle. Back on the Slab and newly promoted to head of Special Homicide, Alex decides it’s time to finally bring down Mr Mac - his longest-standing enemy and the most powerful criminal kingpin in the Confederation of Autonomous Orbiting States. But, before the hunt can begin he finds himself lumbered with the inconvenient and spectacularly bloody murder of a famous industrialist. A swift but violent resolution to the case raises more questions than it answers and Alex’s inability to tolerate a mystery soon uncovers a far greater threat than he has ever faced before. Ragnarok is coming. To stop it, Alex must call on the help of both friends and foes, as well as placing himself in an alien and hostile environment: it’s time for a return visit to Planet Earth.

This book reminded me how much I enjoy Ryan’s writing. He can pull out emotions with just a few words.

The basic plot follows Alex McLeod—Demon in the Police Department, badass detective, and hero in the last war—as he solves some gruesome murders. Ryan blends these stories together in a concise, well thought out plot. I found it quite addicting.

First off, I have a hard time with sci-fi. The first three stories in this book made me forget I was reading sci-fi. Don’t get me wrong; the world is incredibly developed but in such a way that I understood. Even better was that Ryan conveyed his ideas without a single info dump. We jumped right into action and were given terms with the perfect amount of context or simple explanation so we understood what was happening. However, I must admit I lost a bit of my footing in the last two stories.

What I mean was that the world of Alex McLeod was set in the Slab and we stayed there for those first three stories. I don’t know what the right term is, but the cover has a picture of it—a world in space, a space station … I don’t know. Ryan provides this in his book blurb: WELCOME TO THE SLAB. A vast orbiting slum where rats grow big, sweat falls in rain and the gene-spliced come in all shapes and sizes. The gene-spliced were fascinating and explained brilliantly. Totally got it. Then in the last two books we left the Slab and I never felt grounded again. This is my fault. I just can’t make my mind grasp certain concepts and imagery. Regardless, I was in love with the characters and storyline, and even though I was floating about a bit I was still thoroughly entertained.

But of course with me it all comes down to those characters, and boy did I love them. All of them. It’s told in first person so obviously I’m going to connect more with Alex, but the other characters added depth to Alex and the story. Especially Joe. Alex is ex-military turned Demon, which equates to a badass. He’s not shy to pull the trigger on the bad guys, but he’s good at heart. A protagonist you really root for. He’s flawed and slowly over the story we see him grow from the dark spot we start from. Ryan’s ability to draw emotion form a few short words is amazing. Despite Alex’s badassness, he has the right amount of humanity that really pulled the heart strings.

The pacing is relentless. Every single scene has a point and it moved damn fast. I. Loved. It! It’s hard to put down. There’s a tone to Ryan’s writing that I enjoy immensely, a rhythm, if you will.

So overall, if you love sci-fi or are looking to dip a toe in the genre, I highly recommend this book. If you’re unsure, you can still buy the individual stories and test the waters.

About Anthony Ryan

BIO From Website:
Hi, I’m Anthony Ryan, writer of fantasy, science fiction and non-fiction.

After a long career in the British Civil Service I took up writing full time after the success of my first novel Blood Song, Book One of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy which has been purchased by Penguin US to be published in July 2013. I also continue to self-publish the Slab City Blues series of science fiction novellas.

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