June 2008




Fantasy is a tricky thing to pull off. Unless it’s a Lord of the Rings piece, I tend to tend to tune out. “Elves and fairies on the cover? No thanks, man. I like my books with a harder edge.” Hence the boom in urban fantasy, a genre I’m a big fan of. But what about fantasy with wink and a smile? Books that send the Clever Quotient through the roof? Now, that is something that I can get behind.

That brings us to the worlds of Simon R. Green. With five (five!) series running at or about the same time, Green’s catalogue can be a bit imposing. The NIGHTSIDE series is his take on the p.i. genre. The DEATHSTALKER series is space opera. And the SECRET HISTORIES novels are his secret agent books; with THE MAN WITH GOLDEN TORC being the starting point.

Eddie Drood is everything you want in a “James Bond-style” hero. Tons of swagger. Quick with a quip. Loads of cool gadgets. Oh, and a suit of liquid gold armor that he mystically controls from the golden collar (or “torc”) that is bonded to his neck. When he calls forth the armor, it completely covers his entire body, rendering his face a featureless mask. Granting him near-invulnerability, super-human strength and endurance, the armor is one of the most powerful weapons in the super-natural world. Worn by all agents of the Drood family, the armor is like a policeman’s gun, or a Green Lantern’s power ring: a tool used to keep the peace.

When Eddie is suddenly and without warning branded a rogue by his family, he must not only figure out the Who? What? What? Where? And How?, he must also do it cut off from the massive resources of the Drood family. With nowhere else to go, Eddie turns to his greatest enemy for help. The wild witch Molly Metcalf and Eddie Drood have crossed swords and spells time and time again. Always each other’s greatest enemy, they are the living example of conflict breeding respect for ones greatest foe. Representing the chaos to the Drood family’s order, Molly wants nothing more than to tear down the Droods brick by brick. With the promise of bringing down the Drood family, Molly Metcalf sides with Eddie.

The “Agent Branded A Traitor” may be one of the classic tropes of literature, but in Green’s hands, you feel like you’re reading something fresh and new. Green uses his shared universe as a receptacle for his immense idea generator of a brain. Like Grant Morrison, Green fills his pages with more off-hand ideas than any other author I know of. His throwaway characters and subplots could fill volumes. I found myself rereading whole chapters and wishing for stories focusing on the Karma Catechist, or Mr. Stab, or even the Sceneshifters and their Red King.

The SECRET HISTORIES novels do act as a sort of framing series for Green’s shared universe. So if you haven’t read his books before, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC is the perfect jumping on point.

Dan Malmon

Simon Green, Jon and Dan at C2E2 this past April

Simon Green, Jon and Dan at C2E2 this past April