MARY-KAREN REID (2016) and BOOK REVIEWS: “FINN FANCY” BOOKS by RANDY HENDERSON

Figure 1 - Mary-Karen by Kelly Freas (1983)

Figure 1 – Mary-Karen by Kelly Freas (1983)

Somewhere between 35 and 40 years ago, I first met Mary-Karen  Reid  (“M-K”) (Figure 1, portrait circa 1983 by Frank Kelly Freas) and her husband Larry Reid. They came to MosCon (in Moscow, Idaho) several times, and I went to NonCon (In Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta) several times before I moved to Edmonton in 1985 and joined ESFCAS (pronounced “ess-fack’-us”), the Edmonton Science Fiction and Comic Arts Society. Although I specifically moved to Canada to get married, the Reids were an important part of the reason I felt it would be beneficial to me to come to Edmonton and, once I was there, became lifelong friends and part of my heart. It grieves me to announce that on Wednesday, March 30 of this year, Mary-Karen Reid died suddenly of complications from her long illness—a rare offshoot of arthritis, I believe. Although we didn’t always live close together in Edmonton, I spent a large amount of time with them—I helped stain their back fence, clean up their garage and stuff, and they provided me with Canadian Tire dollars when I was jobless. The last time I saw them was five years ago, at VCON 36 (Figure 2). She was also a member of the Edmonton Skeptics, was an atheist, and loved jewellery (CDN spelling) and SF books. She worked in the medical profession until her illness made it impossible for her to continue; and she affected everyone she met positively. Fandom has lost a rare person: lovely, gracious, intelligent and humorous, M-K will be sorely missed by all who knew her. If you can be there, a celebration of Mary-Karen’s life will be held tomorrow (Saturday), April 9, 2016 at 2:00 p.m., at the Southside Memorial Chapel, 8310 – 104 Street, Edmonton. If you wish to contribute to a charity in her memory instead of sending flowers, you can go to arthritis.ca or homelessconnectyeg.com. (Also, see the ESFCAS Facebook page for more photos.)

Figure 2 - M-K & Larry at VCON 26 (2011)

Figure 2 – M-K & Larry at VCON 36 (2011)

On a happier note, I got an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of Randy Henderson’s new book Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free from TOR Books a couple of months ago, and am just now getting around to reviewing it. Sometimes it takes me a while, plus I had to hunt down a copy of Randy’s first book, Finn Fancy Necromancy (also from TOR, available from your local independent bookstore, any other brick-and-mortar bookstore in your area, and/or the usual online chains—Amazon, etc.). I had not known Randy’s name prior to receiving the ARC of his second book (see below), but now I know he’s a Grand Prize winner of the Writers of the Future. Now, regardless of what your (and my) personal views on LRH and/or his so-called “religion,” there is no doubt that WoF has done major good for the field of SF/F, both written and artistic. People I know well have been winners, Grand Prize winners, and judges. I, myself was a semifinalist (I have a pretty blue certificate somewhere). And I believe you have to be On The Ball to win the Grand Prize in this endeavour! So before we dig into Randy’s second book, let’s take a look at his first one.

First off, let me tell you that, in spite of the fact that I’ve lived all over the US and in England in my youth, and was even born in Califor-ni-yay and am now a proud Canadian-Amurrican, I still secretly think of myself of a Pacific Northwest kinda guy. Even my wife, the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, who was born in Missouri and has lived in Colorado and Washington, thinks of herself as a Pacific Northwest kinda gal. So in spite of the fact that Stephenie Wossname put sparkly vampires in Forks, we’re always proud when Warshington (hey, that’s how my dear old departed Dad used to say it) is the focus of a book—especially a genre book! And boy, howdy, are the Finn books ever! Set more or less in Port Townsend—which for you unfortunates who aren’t from Washington, is a touristy little place (population around 9,000 souls) on the Olympic Peninsula, west of Everett and east of Port Angeles. And Finn Fancy Necromancy goes from Port Townsend to Everett, Seattle, and all around that area. Which makes me inclined to favour the book, all other things considered.

Figure 3 - Finn Fancy Necromancy cover

Figure 3 – Finn Fancy Necromancy cover

Anyway, the teenaged Phineaus Gramaraye (yes, his last name is an archaic word for “magic” or “necromancy” misspelled—and as far as I’m concerned, that on a par with naming a skeletal figure “Skeletor,” and the like), called “Finn Fancy” by his family, is accused and convicted by a magical court of attacking someone with “dark necromancy” and exiled to a fairy realm for 25 years. (During his exile, someone from that realm will be “wearing” his body; he’ll be in the other realm in “soul” only.) Something goes wrong in the return process, and the 15 years’ worth of memories he’s supposed to inherit are lost; he comes back to a 40-year-old body that has, in his absence, undergone puberty (“I have a hairy back!”), and he learns that Back to the Future was not an accurate portrayal of the modern world. Our cars are “smaller” than 25 years ago (Oh, yeah? What about all those damned SUVs and RAVs and giant pick-me-ups?) and don’t even fly! Nobody uses cassettes or Commodore 64s (Damn! There goes his plan to support himself by writing text games in Basic computer language!) and phones are now damned near magical! Oh, yeah, and his grandfather is dead and his girlfriend married someone else and he now has 3 days to defend himself against another charge—of killing someone with dark magic—or face another exile!

Not to mention that his father has gone totally bonkers, and is now a mad magical inventor who speaks mostly in rhyme; his brother Mort hates him because he’s afraid that Finn wants to take over the family business; his sister Samantha is now allergic to magic; and his brother Pete, large and childlike, still thinks he’s a werewolf. Add in sasquatches, an ex-Enforcer named Zeke, sylphs, gnomes and other magical creatures and a bunch of tangential plots, and you have quite a romp.

Figure 4 - Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free cover

Figure 4 – Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free cover

Now we have Randy’s newest book—but not yet the end of the series, called (according to Amazon) the “Arcana Familia”—which is called Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free, also from TOR. Well, in this sequel Finn has proved his innocence of the crime he was originally convicted and exiled for; and though his girlfriend (when he originally left at age 15) Heather is no longer his girlfriend, he’s fallen in love again—with Dawn, the literal “girl next door,” who waited for him. He’s got a place in the family business (operating a mortuary for the Arcane, managing the magical energies left behind when an Arcane being dies to prevent it from harming the mundane world). An Arcane, by the way, is a human who is not a mundane; someone who has and/or can use magic in some way, or who can sense the magical/fey “brightblood” world that occupies the same space as ours. But Finn has figured out how to use the Kinfinder device created by his crazy father (out of an old Simon game) to find people’s True Love, and he’d like to convert that into an Arcane Dating Service; he can get out of the family business and go into business for himself. He’ll start with his Bigfoot friend “Sal,” and expand it from there; after all–everyone wants True Love, don’t they? Unfortunately for Finn, he seems to be a magnet for trouble. He and Sal get caught up in a Fey/brightblood rebellion against the ARC, the Arcane Ruling Council, who don’t really care for any of the fey in the first place, and that includes Finn’s brother Pete, a “waerwolf,” and his girlfriend Vee, a “waersquirrel.” The action ranges across western Washington, even hitting Snoqualmie Falls (Twin Peaks watchers will get that one) and has a neat scene in the Evergreen Cemetery in Everett—where I and my Everett Junior College (now Everett Community College) friends used to party hearty at the Rucker tomb. In spite of Finn’s good intentions, things go from bad to worse to worse; seems like every time he solves one issue, he creates another. There’s a lot of action in this 425-plus-page book, and a lot to like.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I unreservedly applaud these two books. In my opinion, TOR needs to get Randy a copy editor at the very least, just to let him in on a few ill-kept secrets of the English language: you know, things like the difference between “lie” and “lay”; the past tense of “sink” being “sank” instead of “sunk”; informing him that “drug” is not the past tense of “drag” (hint, it’s “dragged”); and the like. Those things are like fingernails on a chalkboard to people who were actually taught English, rather than whatever it is they do in school these days. Then they could move on to idea editing, and let him know that you don’t have to be funny all the time (it actually works better if you start the humour level lower and then build up, rather than starting high and trying to goose it from there… see Terry Pratchett for an example). Just for instance, the titles are too cutesy by half. Maybe not to the Dorothy Parker “Tonstant weadew fwowed up” level, but still…. And I don’t get the people who have to fly in the face of English usage and use words like “waer” instead of the perfectly good “were”—“man” from Old English; and those (fortunately, not Randy) who have to use “magick” instead of “magic” as well as “faery” (which has always meant the land of fairies) instead of “fairy.” But those are pet peeves, and don’t really affect the action.

However, despite these niggles, I did enjoy the books. For those who don’t have the local knowledge to follow (at least mentally) the action across the state, use Google Maps and Google Street View, just as a suggestion, to enhance your reading, if you’re reading the e-version. If you’re reading the paper version, use your notebook or tablet and follow the action that way. (Or maybe I’m just weird.) So I would rate these two books highly, and will read the next one if I can.

If you can, please comment on this week’s column. If you haven’t already registered—it’s free, and just takes a moment—go ahead and register here, then comment. Or, you can comment on my Facebook page, or in the several Facebook groups where I publish  links to this column. Your comments, positive or not, are all welcome. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other columnists. See you next week!

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3 thoughts on "MARY-KAREN REID (2016) and BOOK REVIEWS: “FINN FANCY” BOOKS by RANDY HENDERSON"

  1. stevefah says:

    It’s possible, Folly. Generally speaking, however, you’d expect *more* grammatical errors if a first-person POV is from a less-educated standpoint. Thanks for the question, though.

  2. Folly Blaine says:

    Great review and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Did you get the sense at all that maybe Randy was using non-standard grammar because the novels are a first-person narrative from the POV of a guy who left school at 15? Normally I’m bothered by mistakes like dragged/drug too, but it didn’t bother me here because I believed it was a conscious choice that aided in character development.

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