Once again I've learned that you can't tell a book by its cover...or by its title. When I chose to review FORT FREAK, I expected it to be a somewhat over-the-edge police procedural. And the name implied that there could be some sardonic humor involved. While it is definitely over the edge and there is sardonic humor involved, the title is way more literal than I had anticipated.
If you love science fiction and have never read any of the series, you are in for a treat.
The precinct is manned by a group of police who have learned to work together despite their differences. Just to be clear, we are not talking about race, religion, or ethnic origin here. Detective Leo Storgman, for example, is called Ramshead...and he actually has ram-like facial features. Uniformed patrol officer William Chen is known as Tinkerbill because he has the power to spray a pink glow on a suspect that will easily identify him in case he happens to elude or escape custody. Ramshead and Tinkerbill are partners. Another special detail cop is Thomas Driscoll, or Tabby, who is able to go undercover as a cat.
The neighborhood around the precinct is also inhabited by unusual characters. There is Father Squid, the parish priest for The Lady of Perpetual Misery, the Church of Jesus Christ, Joker. "His round eyes were slightly protruding and covered by flickering nictitating membranes. In place of a nose he had a cluster of dangling tentacles that covered his mouth like a constantly twitching mustache." Despite this, he is an engaging and comforting character. Then there is Todd Fairbanks, a teenage student at Barrington Prep. When he blows kisses toward someone, the clothes disappear from that person. He creates quite a stir as he continues to disrobe lovely young women along his way home.
In addition to the fascinating characteristics and special powers of the protagonists, they all play a role in common, ongoing investigations and several mysteries that lend themselves to providing a theme for this unique form of writing. While the book is edited by award-winning novelist George R. R. Martin, it is written by at least 10 individual writers, each responsible for certain chapters. They confer on plot lines and often specialize in certain characters, exchanging ideas with each other and adding their own flavor to the work.
There are several different series with the shared universe theme, a theme that provides stories in an altered history of the Earth. The origins of this altered history are based on an event that happened in 1946, when an alien virus is released over New York City. The virus not only kills people but has the capability to alter DNA, thus beginning an alternative world with much of the same struggles for power and security that actually happened.
If you love science fiction and have never read any of the series, you are in for a treat. If you are not a sci-fi fan, it would certainly be fun to explore a new genre with such a talented group of writers.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on July 3, 2011