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Monday, July 13, 2020

'A Longer Fall' Gunnie Rose #2 by Charlaine Harris

From the BLURB:

In this second thrilling installment of the GUNNIE ROSE series, Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen. Up against a wall in Dixie, where social norms have stepped back into the last century, Lizbeth has to go undercover with an old friend to retrieve the crate as what's inside can spark a rebellion, if she can get it back in time.

‘A Longer Fall’ is the second book in Charlaine Harris’ Western Paranormal ‘Gunnie Rose’ series – set in an alternate world-history timeline in which the Romanov family escape Russia and revolution with their lives, and would go on a land-grab of America after the influenza pandemic wiped out most of the powerful men in Washington and left a power-vacuum.

So … I read the first book ‘An Easy Death’ way back in 2018 and when I went to continue the series with ‘A Longer Fall’ I’d evidently forgotten a lot of the world-building because it hit me like a brick. That Harris – back in 2018 – was writing a skewed world-history in which the trajectories of revolution and pandemic skewed slightly and totally remade the world? Yah. Reading the second book in 2020, it slaps hard.

‘A Longer Fall’ picks up a while after ‘Death’ when our protagonist, Lizbeth (a gun-runner with companies-for-hire) is helping transport precious cargo on a train that suddenly explodes and is derailed, then raided by masked bandits. What follows is an ‘Indiana Jones’-esque storyline of trying to get a trunk to where it needs to be, and along the way grigori wizard Eli reappears when it so happens that the trunk Lizbeth and Co. were carrying, is of great significance to the Holy Russian Empire …

Someone recently asked me if they’d enjoy this series, given their only other Charlaine Harris read was the entire ‘Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire’ series and the way that ended left an (understandably) sour taste. I warned that ‘Gunnie Rose’ is perhaps the straight-up darkest of all Harris’s works; and even though all her books get there eventually, ‘Gunnie’ starts out dark in tone and then it’s a matter of brief glimpses of light getting in. One of those glimpses is the Russian wizard Eli, and his strange relationship with Lizbeth that’s built around their chance-encounters and clear sexual chemistry… but also a shared secret that Lizbeth has grigori blood in her veins.

Even though ‘Gunnie’ is the darkest in tone of all Harris’s books (beating out the previous ‘Midnight, Texas’ that I would have said had much more sinister southern gothic tones) I am so enjoying this ride. And ‘A Longer Fall’ especially – reading in 2020… it has HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ vibes meets ‘Indiana Jones’ for its vigilante, racial upheaval and culture-war undertones. I’m really impressed that Harris pulling on this one thread of history has unravelled so much of present-day society which is exactly what the best of fantasy and sci-fi should always do; hold a mirror up to the present world and make commentary through various mechanisms of almost absurdity.

I really enjoyed ‘A Longer Fall’, and can’t wait for ‘The Russian Cage’ coming in February 2021, which promises to send Lizbeth to the Holy Russian Empire (finally!). I really can’t see this series wrapping up in 3 books though, when the weight of the real world seems to be increasingly impressing on its relevance. I’m hoping for a full-blown multi-book series that continues to build this universe.


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