RogerBW's Blog

Water to Burn, Katharine Kerr 29 August 2022

2011 urban fantasy, second of its series. Nola O'Grady, high-grade psychic, continues to work for no-such-agency tracking down supernatural threats to the people of San Francisco.

So. Yeah. I mean, the basic business of writing is competent, the threats are interesting, but it all ends up feeling blah. And the ethics are very situational.

There are parallel worlds! In at least one of them, there's lots of radiation and everybody has a short and upleasant life. No, we won't try to find out about them or make anything better for them, except for the one girl whom Nola's nephew has fallen for. Looks as if Missing Dad was originally from a parallel world, and the authorities there have got him back and banged him up for unauthorised world-hopping. They are therefore obviously Bad, and if breaking him out of prison would be hard we'll at least do our own unauthorised hopping to bring him back when he gets parole. But when someone from a different parallel world says "this enemy of yours is a criminal, hand him over to me", well, sure, of course we do that.

And when one of Nola's relatives turns out to have been running guns to the Irish in the NORAID days, her rule-following Israeli boyfriend has no problem with it: eh that's all fine it was a long time ago. It's not as if he'd been running guns to the West Bank. (Yes, this is said explicitly.)

Maybe Kerr's doing this deliberately, but I don't think so. I really don't think she sees how the only difference between these cases is whether whoever gets hurt by them is a real person we care about or just one of them; or perhaps she doesn't care.

Said boyfriend, Ari Nathan, is a field of landmines: things considered perfectly normal outside a high-patriarchal-religion environment, like dressing as a prostitute as a disguise, cause him to lose his temper. What a prize. And every time Nola disagrees with him, he's shown to be right. What a protagonist.

And then Kerr gives herself licence for the bad guys to do anything that's convenient for the plot: you can't do conventional crime-solving on them because they're Agents of Chaos, and anything that would make a pattern would be an Order thing! So you just have to sit and wait for the author to give you a hint from your uncontrollable visions…

There are two more of these, but I feel no enthusiasm for them.

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Previous in series: License to Ensorcell | Series: Nola O'Grady

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