Archive for September 30th, 2011

Ryk Spoor’s “Digital Knight” — A Fun Take on Things that go Bump in the Night

Digital KnightRyk Spoor’s DIGITAL KNIGHT is a fun, fast read about things that go bump in the night.  DIGITAL KNIGHT features Jason Wood, a present-day computer information specialist who is so good at what he does that the FBI and local police departments often come to him for help.  Jason’s love interest is the New Age mystic Sylvia “Sylvie” Stake, who has real psychic powers that Jason knows exist but feels uncomfortable about; that Sylvie does her best to live up to the “fluffy bunny” stereotype of New Age practitioners as a form of camouflage only adds to his confusion.

But Jason’s adventures are only beginning; along the way, he learns that vampires are real and that at least one, Verne Domingo, is honorable.  Jason also learns that werewolves are much more horrible than any book or movie has ever portrayed them, and that both vampires and werewolves have an unusual tie to the Earth that Jason (or the reader) would have never expected.

Jason’s computer information business is extremely high-tech stuff, and Jason himself is very good at putting small bits of information together.  This is perhaps why, when Verne Domingo reveals he’s not what he seems to be, that Jason is able to accept this; the other reason, of course, is that Sylvie has psychic abilities of her own and she knows Domingo is telling the truth.  The trust here between Jason and Verne can happen only because Sylvie is what she is.  That helps to leaven all the adventures these three have, separately and together, and gives the book its emotional center.

This is a very fun and fast read, but what makes it so interesting is the fact that no matter how outré a person may seem, he or she still wants the same basic things: loyalty, love, and friendship.   That Verne (a vampire) encourages Jason to accept his feelings regarding Sylvie was an amusing touch, considering how long-lived he is and how easily he sees right through Jason.  Sylvie herself was a delight, because she seems to enjoy confounding Jason, then enlightening him about certain matters, then once again confounding him.  Jason, too, is well worth rooting for, because no matter what predicament he’s in, he always treats Sylvie with the utmost respect no matter how confused he is as to whether or not this is a friendship, a romance or, as the reader grasps from the start but Jason doesn’t, both.

The structure here is that of linked short stories, which makes perfect sense as this was originally a self-published novel by Spoor that was adapted and expanded once Jim Baen took an interest at Baen Books.  This is the best possible structure for such a book, though, because we get to see Jason change over time due to what life throws at him.  And the human elements that are present — Jason and Sylvie’s relationship, the ancient Verne Domingo who’s done and seen it all, the horrible Virigar (leader of the werewolves, who hates Domingo and thus hates Jason and Sylvie, too, as they are Domingo’s friends) — nicely balance all the supernatural stuff that could’ve easily outweighed the story, but doesn’t.

As for minuses?  Well, there’s a lot of violence here, as you might expect with an urban fantasy about detective work, werewolves and vampires.  There’s also a great deal of what I like to call “fandom lore,” as Spoor is a huge science fiction and fantasy geek (as you’d expect) and makes many references to the authors he’s read and the movies he’s watched to gain any knowledge about how to deal with werewolves and vampires.  To me, these were very minor issues, as I can’t see how the story would’ve been able to be told half as well without the violence or the SF/F “name-dropping,” and did not distract from the story much if at all.

I really enjoyed my recent re-read of DIGITAL KNIGHT, and believe you will, too.  Best of all, the link provided is to the Baen Free Library, where you can download this book for free.  (Baen does this as a form of advertisement, figuring that if you like the author’s free book or books, you’ll enjoy reading the same author’s latest and pay for it next time.)

This is a fine debut novel that does just about everything right, that has some original takes on tropes that in other hands could be old and tired, and has a nifty romance that’s appropriate for all ages.  Best of all, it’s a fun and fast read that doesn’t insult your intelligence.

So what are you waiting for?  Go download the book at the Free Library right away.  (And if you’re interested in one of Spoor’s more recent offerings, please read my review of GRAND CENTRAL ARENA.)

Grade: A-

— reviewed by Barb

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