Saturday, January 14, 2012

Babylon Steel by Gaie Sebold

Babylon Steel is Gaie Sebold's debut novel and has been identified by the publisher Solaris as one of their releases to look for in 2012. The sequel Hunter's Moon has also been acquired by Solaris, so there's good news for anyone who enjoyed Babylon Steel.

Babylon Steel is a rather Xena Warrior Princess style sword for hire and brothel owner. Babylon lives and works in Scalentine, which is a kind of interdimensional portal. Most of Scalentine's inhabitants come there to escape their pasts, and Babylon is no exception. The chapters set in Scalentine are interspersed with others set on the world of Tiresana, Babylon's original home plane, and they cover her life before she found her way to Scalentine and set up her high class establishment the Red Lantern.

The strengths of Babylon Steel are the setting of Scalentine and the characters. The folk who work the Red Lantern from the S&M twins Cruel and Unusual, who cater for clients wanting a somewhat more memorable experience to the fey Laney, who can give clients the unique experience of having made love to a genuinely magical creature, or even the Orc cook and former pit fighter Flower, are not just employees, they share in the profits and they're as much family as anything else.

The inhabitants of Scalentine range from fey like Laney to four armed hermaphroditic aliens, and it is this world with all it's denizens and gutter crawlers that Babylon ranges through trying to find answers that will help her once and for all put her past truly behind her.

It's a real fun romp full of sex, violence and rock and... no sorry there's no rock and roll, but there possibly should be. Cruel and Unusual would make a great front pair for any rock band. Gaie, being British, does tend to use a peculiarly English form of street slang which she may want to cut down on for future books, because it tended to take me out of the alien landscape of Scalentine.

I did love the setting, though. Scalentine put me in mind of the Time Station from Robert Aspin and Linda Evan's Timescout series, which was a short lived series that I really enjoyed and still wonder why there weren't more books in it.

Despite Babylon Steel reading as a largely self contained story, it has been left open for further adventures, hence the sequel Hunter's Moon (I wonder if Hunter or Moon are going to be character names?), and I hope that the budding romance between the often on the wrong side of the law Babylon and Scalentine's head law enforcer the werewolf Chief Bitternut (shades of Alexia Tarabotti and Conall Maccon in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate there) comes to something in the future.

My first new book of 2012 and both the year and Ms Sebold's career are off to a flying start.

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