I recently finished re-reading Last Call by Tim Powers. Fans of this blog know I'm a Tim Powers fangirl, and Last Call is one of his best works, and sort of one of his weakest.
Powers writes occult/mythos/body snatchers like nobodies business. When a character realizes he is a direct descendant of a demi-god or a legendary archetype, or has found the foutain of youth but paid a terrible price, you know it's true. Because Tim Powers said so. That said, sometimes Powers gets a little ahead of himself, and characters and plots get a little mishmashed. Like when you've got a couple of bites of thanksgiving left on your plate, so you just put the half bite of mash potatoes, and a little bit of turkey, and the green beans on your fork and eat it, and it tastes really good, but you can't tell what's what? Unfortunately most of the middle of Last Call is like that.
the action is great, but I read Powers for the articles.
here's the easier to digest version:
Scott Crane thinks he's normal. He makes a fine living as a pro poker player, except things around him keep dying. Like pets. and plants. and his wife. 20 years ago, he played the strangest game of poker you can imagine - 13 players exactly, options to buy another players hand then sell it for a shared profit. The name of the game was Assumption, and it was played with hand painted Tarot cards. That fateful game so many years ago, how could Scott possibly know or understand what was bought and sold that night? This year, the game will be played again, for higher stakes.
Scott, along with his foster sister Diana, his foster father Ozzie, and friends Arky and Bernadette are fighting against the Fisher King and his minions, who have unlimited resources, guns, contacts, and bodies (Powers doesn't anything if he can't have some body snatching in there someplace!).
This isn't a poker book. But I did learn a lot about Tarot cards (you'd be amazed how that can come in handy!). The beginning of the novel is strong, and the end is phenomenol. But the middle? muddled. Everytime I read this book I'm reminded of why I love it, and why I waited so long to read it again.
So i'm not sure if Powers is the writing God that I tell my friends that he is, or if he runs hot and cold. But I still buy tons of his books, so that's gotta say something.