Good Guys: Pleasant but forgettable

Good Guys by Steven Brust science fiction book reviewsGood Guys by Steven Brust science fiction book reviewsGood Guys by Steven Brust

The Foundation, a secretive government agency, collects people who have magical powers and puts them to work for minimum wage. They are tasked with keeping evil magic users under control while ensuring that normal people don’t find out that magic exists.

In Good Guys (2018) we follow three of these folks: Donovan, Susan “Hippie Chick,” and Marci. At the Foundation’s direction, they are working together to investigate a string of magical murders which are getting progressively more gruesome and seem to have a particular end-game in mind. Donovan, Susan, and Marci investigate crime scenes, find clues, make deductions (and huge leaps of logic), and attempt to find and stop the killer before the killer gets them.

This is all very dangerous and they don’t get a lot of support (or pay) from the bureaucratic organization they work for. They are aware that there is another related agency that works to foil the Foundation’s work, and is probably directing the string of murders. What’s confusing to our protagonists, though, is that the people who are being murdered are bad guys. So, if the killer is killing bad guys and they are ordered to kill the killer…. Who are the good guys? Donovan, Susan, and Marci are starting to wonder. As readers, Brust also gives us the perspective of the murderer who, not surprisingly, thinks he’s the good guy.

Good Guys was a pleasant read but, in the end, didn’t leave much impression on me. I was hoping that some of the things I love about Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS books — fascinating world, unique voice of the protagonist — would be found here, but I can’t say that they are. I like Brust’s good guys well enough, but I don’t really care that much if I never encounter them again. Same with the plot. It entertained me for a few hours, but I doubt I’ll remember much about it at this time next year.

The audiobook version was published by Tantor Audio and narrated by Kevin T. Collins. I liked his performance. The audiobook is 9.5 hours long.

Published in print in March 2018. Published in audio format in September 2018. A snarky, irreverent tale of secret magic in the modern world, the first solo standalone novel in two decades from Steven Brust, the New York Times bestselling author of the Vlad Taltos series. Donovan was shot by a cop. For jaywalking, supposedly. Actually, for arguing with a cop while black. Four of the nine shots were lethal—or would have been, if their target had been anybody else. The Foundation picked him up, brought him back, and trained him further. “Lethal” turns out to be a relative term when magic is involved. When Marci was fifteen, she levitated a paperweight and threw it at a guy she didn’t like. The Foundation scooped her up for training too. “Hippie chick” Susan got well into her Foundation training before they told her about the magic, but she’s as powerful as Donovan and Marci now. They can teleport themselves thousands of miles, conjure shields that will stop bullets, and read information from the remnants of spells cast by others days before. They all work for the secretive Foundation…for minimum wage. Which is okay, because the Foundation are the good guys. Aren’t they?

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. Even reading your review, I sighed when I say “Hippie Chick” as a character nickname. It seemed too easy. I’m a little disappointed, but this review reminds me that I have several Vlad adventures left to read and they’d be perfect for fall.

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