Fresh off the heels from one murder mystery, I jumped right into another murder mystery story. Stalking the Unicorn by Mike Resnick is unfortunately not as gripping as The Black Dahlia.
What drew me to this book is that it initially seemed like an American version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. A rather sarcastic detective is drawn into a Manhattan underground by an elf with a missing unicorn. That is where the similarities ended.
In this underground Manhattan that you see from the corner of your eye, John Justin Mallory is in a world that looks like his real Manhattan, but with a few changes. The elf’s Manhattan “had come fully to life. It was still cold and raining, but the street was bustling with elves, gnomes, goblins, trolls, and even less human passersby, as well as an assortment of men and women. Sturdy multihued elephants and draft horses pulled an endless stream of carts and carriages, while odd little street vendors who were neither men nor elves were hawking everything from toys to mystical gemstones” (p48). Taxis are elephants roaming the streets. There are cat people, capes that are able to adapt to every know weather condition just with a click of the belt buckle. In this fantasy Manhattan, John Justin comes across The Grundy, an evil and powerful warlord who is also after the missing unicorn, along with various other characters such as subway gnomes, leprechauns, and shrinking ponies. The chapters are broken up into 20 minute time segments, and the entire story takes place between 8:35pm and Dawn the next day.
My review of this book is pretty mixed. I did enjoy some of the comedy and the witty rapport between the characters. John Justin Mallory is an incredibly likable character and a guy you want to have on your side. The rest of the characters are flat and predictable. The Grundy is not as threatening or scary as he is made out to be. There is no real creativity with the imaginary Manhattan and the plot dragged on for a few chapters longer than necessary. There were also a few characters what provided no plot development or improvement. I may just be out of practice with reading Sci-Fi/Fantasy books. Most of what I’ve read is Neil Gaiman, Lois McMasters Bujold and George R.R. Martin. I had high hopes for Mike Resnick since he has been awarded 5 Hugo awards and 1 Nebula award, among a large list of other awards and honors for his work since 1989.
I have the sequal, Stalking the Vampire currently checked out, and I’m hoping that will be an improvement over Stalking the Unicorn. Otherwise, I’ll have to specifically look for one of his award winners. I never feel comfortably brushing off any author with so many awards and honors under their belt, until I’ve read a couple different books of theirs.
FINAL GRADE: B-Stalking the Unicorn by Mike Resnick PYR, 1987 ISBN 9781591026488 280 pages