Sunday, February 13, 2011

What's On the iPod? - Last Call by Tim Powers

The strength in Last Call by Tim Powers, a contemporary fantasy or magic realism epic, is, first and foremost, in its fully realized fantasy universe. It is a world shaped by the Tarot and Arthurian legend, and it's the kind of immersive work that makes for a really fine audiobook experience.

As an aside: The App
I've begun using Audible's free iPhone app for its convenience, and because it's goal-oriented. It crosses foursquare badges, time tracking and sharing with friends. It's brilliantly or crassly commercial, depending on your point of view. It challenges you to listen more. It's also helpful, since I have an active imagination and have to exercise care to keep my mind wandering when listening to audio fiction. It's not the fiction's fault, just me.

The app provided perfect inducements for keeping me focused on Last Call, read brilliantly by Bronson Pinchot, most noted for comedic turns on film and TV. Yeah, it's Balki, but there's never a trace of over-the-top humor in his tone.

In the Last Call universe, where Bugsy Siegel was a wizard and Las Vegas swirls with subtle magic, Scott Crane is faced with a horror from his past.

Scott, who once worked as a gambler with his surrogate father, Ozzie, is the target of his real and powerfully magical father, a wounded king with multiple bodies and his disposal and a host of thugs as well.

Having once played a poker game with Tarot cards against his biological dad, Scott's primed to provide the old man a new body as the result of an assumption of a card hand.

The quest to prevent that loss of body and soul takes up most the novel's central action as Crane seeks the help and knowledge of the estranged Ozzie, who's steeped in gambling superstitions which have real validity in the universe of Last Call. He also has to cope with a ghostly ex-wife, an angry sister and a neighbor who's been given cancer by association with Scott's magical baggage. 

Chases, gun battles and intrigue keep the story moving, all while conveying more and more detail of the world and the rules in which it all takes place.

It's a fabulously consistent magical  landscape, shaped by myth and history, and it makes for several wonderful hours of listening. It's pretty much how I spent my January at the gym, and of course it's still available on paper or in e-book formats as well.

Look for On Stranger Tides by Powers as well, source for the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

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