Ferrett Steinmetz examines the magic of parent-child relationships in “The Flux”

FluxThe Flux
Ferrett Steinmetz

★★★★
Angry Robot, Oct. 2015.

I’ve been remiss.

Actually I’ve been depressed, but that’s neither here nor there. It hasn’t been a good couple months, reading or writing-wise. Anyhow, I’m hoping to get myself back on track, so I’m playing catch-up with some overlooked reviews and interviews.

Like The Flux.

I read this sequel to Steinmetz’s wonderful debut, Flex, about a month ago, even published an interview with Steinmetz to celebrate its release, and haven’t done jack shit to write an actual review since.

I just haven’t been able to get my writermancy to manifest. But I’m going to try and summon some magic tonight and hope the flux doesn’t kick my ass for another couple months.

The Flux picks up two years after the events of Flex, and bureacromancer Paul Tsabo is still cooking New York’s finest Flex, the priceless drug made from distilled magic, with his partner the kinky gamermancer Valentine DiGriz.

Flex-144dpiThey’re just having problems delivering the product to the mobsters bankrolling the pair. Between Paul’s daughter Aaliyah, an eight-year-old ‘mancer with incredible and unpredictable powers, and a new player in New York’s magical underworld, the mysterious “King of New York,” every attempt to cook Flex seems to end in disaster.

And Paul’s ex-wife’s new husband is heading New York’s anti-‘mancy task force and is determined to bring the powerful “Psycho Mantis” (Aaliyah) to justice. And Aaliyah hasn’t developed a sense of morality to her powers yet, making her even more dangerous, especially since Paul’s ex doesn’t know about her ‘mancy.

But that’s just background. The main focus of The Flux is Paul trying to protect Aaliyah from herself and the authorities, while she is learning to accept her powers and how to channel them for good or evil.

He thinks he has the answer in a special group home for ‘mancers where she can interact with culinarimancers, catomancers and origamimancers. Unfortunately she doesn’t have the best teacher in Rainbird, an amoral pyromancer who works as an assassin for the King of New York.

Ferret-Steinmetz-200x267Meanwhile Valentine has fallen for a Fight-Club-mancer who is following Tyler Durden’s anarchist ideals.

Yeah, it’s a fun read with plenty of heart.

I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy this series. Tsabo is clearly modeled after Walter White, but the story isn’t one of an anti-hero’s descent into moral depravity. As Steinmetz said in our interview, Paul was not an angry ambitious man, but a quiet bureaucrat who loved order, and proper placement, and justice.” It’s nice to see the good guy come out ahead.

That’s not to say there aren’t struggles along the way. There are plenty of dark turns, both for Aaliyah, who has to learn how to deal with her awesome powers at an age when she has no concept of morality, and Paul, whose attempts to shield his daughter from her own worst powers nearly destroys his life. And there is plenty of death along the way.

But family and friendships triumph even as the stakes get even higher.

And props to Steinmetz for Tuckerizing Ann Leckie in The Flux. Payback for publishing his Nebula-nominated novelette “Sauerkraut Station” in her online zine “Giganotosaurus” perhaps?

—Michael Senft

Buy The Flux

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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