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Spirits in the Park
Scott Mebus
Dutton, 372 pages

Spirits in the Park
Scott Mebus
Scott Mebus works as a producer for MTV and VH1, as well as a freelance music producer and editor. He has written numerous TV ads and full-length videos, working on projects as disparate as The Tom Green Show and The Real World. He currently resides in Manhattan.

Scott Mebus Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Gods of Manhattan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

"But a little candle in the dark was often all it took to make people wonder what else there was to see."
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Spirits in the Park is the sequel to Gods of Manhattan and is a direct continuation of the original story, set just one month later. It is nice to see in any novel, especially a novel for children, for which the author has taken the time to provide a handy up-front cast list. In this case, a quick scan revealed that in addition to the expected returnees, I would be reading about the God of Pirates, a spirit dog, a fallen god, a murdered son, and an infamous figure remembered as Typhoid Mary. Enticing stuff indeed.

In what must be one of the most inventive openings I've ever read, there is an attempted assassination via poison slug! From there on. it's straight into the guts of the story, setting up another adventure for Rory Hennessey, the last Light of New York City. As before the story flits between the mundane world, and the unseen layer of spirit world that is Mannahatta. Author Scott Mebus has astutely divided the action between Rory with the Rattle Watch, and Bridget Hennessy with her crew, interspersed with bite-sized dollops of exposition regarding the good and evil peripheral cast. The style of presentation, and craft employed, makes this a novel which is far from simplistic, yet a breeze to read. While dark themes are touched upon, the story is mostly light, and suitable for all but the most nervous of children. It is aimed at the pre-teen market, but can be enjoyed by young adults, and those whose childhoods are but a distant memory. Perhaps with older readers in mind, Mebus includes a smattering of more subtle jokes and characterizations which will be lost on those not old enough to get the reference. For example, Jimmy Walker as the God of Leaders Who Look the Other Way, and George Gershwin as the God of Snappy Tunes.

As with its predecessor, Spirits in the Park blends the author's unique mythology, with real world New York City. Most of the time it's a happy amalgam, and often beautifully presented. There are a few highs and lows to the plot. Highs being Bridget, Rory's kid sister, inside her papier-maché form, the return of Toy, a genuinely menacing bad guy in the form of Butcher Bill, development of the weakest character in the Rattle Watch, development of the sub-plot concerning Rory's missing father, and resolution to the main conundrum introduced in Gods of Manhattan. The lows mostly relate to what is not explained, and a few convenient twists which require a particularly large suspension of disbelief. The biggest disappointment was that there is still no substantive explanation of the mechanics governing the afterlife of those dwelling in Manahatta's spirit realm. Characters 'live' their immortal lives, eat, drink, reproduce and can even die, but details are sparse. This is a shame, as many younger readers today thrive on complex, well thought out rules to underpin imaginary worlds. I would hope that in the next book, Mebus sets aside a few pages to tell his audience more about what makes the dead alive, and the process that creates a God of Manhattan. There is a hint that this will be the case, when one of the children of the Gods takes on power, and we glimpse the price to be paid for that acquisition.

Spirits in the Park was a pleasure to read, and left me eager for more. It's the kind of book that schools should add to their libraries, and parents should consider buying for avid young readers. In a genre where the obvious often takes center stage this is quirky and different, with the added advantage of providing subtle education as to the people and places of forgotten real world Manhattan. Just as the lead character can see things denied to ordinary mortals, so can readers chose to follow up on the underlying inspirations for Manahatta and its immortal population. That is a special kind of magic.

Copyright © 2009 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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