(*Note: I received a copy of this book for review.*)
Hello my beloved nerdlings! I’ve been in a bit of a funk on the reading/reviewing front lately. Do you ever get that feeling, where you’re craving a certain kind of food, and nothing else sounds good, but you just can’t put your finger on what the one tasty thing will be, so you try a bite of this or that, open and close the fridge fifteen times, maybe brush your teeth or get something to drink, but nothing is what you’re looking for? I’ve been like that with books for the last little bit, but after a weekend spent with friends and family, cooking, cleaning, carving pumpkins and laughing ourselves silly, I’m BACK, darlings!
I settled in with a big bowl of salty pumpkin seeds (I wait ALL YEAR for those things) and Mr. Williams’ new novella, and a few hours later, I am still not entirely sure what just happened, but I loved it. This book is WEIRD, y’all.
So, say you’re a witch, living in modern-day San Francisco with your non-binary partner who’s also a witch, and it comes to your attention that the city is in danger of being destroyed by a demon whose vice of choice is greed. Sure, being a witch, you should obviously just cast a spell or two and shut the whole thing down, but let’s take it a step further: The components you need for a spell powerful enough to save an entire large city are pretty much impossible to get, namely, at least one item which was destroyed in the massive earthquake & fire that nearly killed the city in 1906.
Well then you OBVIOUSLY summon the ghost (or maybe just the idea?) of a great historical figure who can travel through time to get what you need, duh.
Enter His Imperial Majesty Joshua Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, and not to pile on the accolades, but also one of the most entertaining characters I’ve come across in a hot minute. Although Oblivion is a work of fiction, from everything I’ve read of Norton, Mr. Williams captured him perfectly. His imperiousness, occasional befuddlement (as when confronted by a nonbinary person or a flashlight for the first time) quickly followed by acceptance, and genuine compassion for the downtrodden combine to create a charisma that jumps off the page. He’s the hero we didn’t know we need.
From there, the story is a fast-paced romp back and forth in time, with a couple of great cameos by other historical figures, but this is no Bill & Ted adventure. For a slender urban fantasy to be so rich in philosophy, social commentary, humor, and evil tech bros is not something I’ve encountered in my decades of reading out-there stuff. Not to mention what a brilliant love letter to the city of San Francisco this book is.
Because Oblivion is only the first in a planned series, it remains to be seen if Mr. Williams will be able to keep the fun (especially with Emperor Norton, good gravy he’s marvelous) without the slightly manic energy of this introduction becoming tiresome.
But I definitely want to see where it goes.