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Bewildering Stories

Simon R. Green, The Man with the Golden Torc

reviewed by Danielle L. Parker

The Man with the Golden Torc
Author: Simon R. Green
Publisher: Roc, June 2007
Hardcover: 393 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-46145-2
If I had to create a Simon R. Green alphabet, we would start, of course, with A for Action (although it could equally be A for Attitude, or A for Anti-Establishment), B for Bam! onward to W for Wham! and, of course, Z for Zombies.

You might gather from this (especially if you’ve read Green’s unique and somewhat better Nightside series) that there’s plenty of slash, smash, crash, and burn in his work. His heroes have not just a chip on their muscular shoulders, but a whole mountain. They’re always rebels. That’s because whatever represents the Establishment in Green’s novels is always hypocritical and hollow, masquerading as Good while in fact thoroughly Bad. The Bad Guys in Green’s novels are really the Good Guys. Are you confused yet?

Green can, of course, carry this Good-is-Bad, Bad-is-Good switch much too far. In The Man with the Golden Torc, we have Jack the Ripper (I ask you, Jack the Ripper?!) fighting on the side of the Good Guys. I should say, old Jack fights for the Bad Guys who are really the Good Guys. I’m afraid this didn’t just stretch my envelope of belief. It burst the molecular structure of it into ten thousand little pieces. Jackie Boy, I never knew you were so sadly misunderstood. You’re just a poor lonely laddie who likes to play with entrails.

But Green’s enthusiastic embrace of the oddball, the bizarre, and the misunderstood rebel aside, his books are usually fun. They mix wildly colorful characters with black humor and horror; attitude with action; irreverence (downright blasphemy, even) with a rather touching affection for the iconoclastic rebel. The heroes are really romantics masquerading as cynics. They come right in the end, in spite of the company they keep (though I advise Eddie Drood, the hero of The Man with the Golden Torc, to stay away from Jack in sequels).

As the story opens, we find Eddie, scion and agent of the Drood (deriving from “Druid”) family, doing his job. His job, and the self-appointed mission of the whole family since time immemorial, is Smash Bad Guys. Of course, Eddie loooves his work.

Eddie’s a bit of a rebel as the book opens, but not much of one (he is fond of clothes that say Attitude, like leather jackets, but that’s about it. Why not safety pins in the nose, and pink mohawks, I ask you? As I said, his heart isn’t really into the rebel deal, at least not yet). In fact, when the Drood Matriarch says Here’s One for Smashing, Eddie goes right out without question and does the deed. Mommy Drood must know best. Bam! Wham! SMASH! Eddie’s got plenty of fancy toys to help with the job, and of course, there’s always the Drood super weapon: a gold torc that can turn into golden Super Armor.

But something goes terribly wrong in Eddie’s fashion-rebel world. He’s set up for an ambush while supposedly transporting a precious family heirloom, a mystic supernaturally powered diamond called the Soul of Albion, to a safe place. Everything but the kitchen sink tries to whack him en route. He has to fight off the whole caboodle: elves and dragons, UFOs, CARnivores (cars gone feral), and... well, there’s too long of a list to mention here. More bam, wham, smash. Eddie finds out it was all a trick anyway — he was never given the diamond. The box is EMPTY!

Without a doubt, Eddie’s on the official Drood Bad Guys list. Now’s he’s a real rebel, not just a leather jacket one. Drood Mommy won’t say what made him the black sheep, and his super-agent, Bondian-cool Uncle’s gunning for him, as well as various spiteful cousins.

What’s Eddie to do? He turns to the Bad Guys for help (Jack, a witch, a sort of neo-fascist lot, and other colorful characters). What deep, dark, dirty secret is the Family hiding? (Remember, the Establishment ALWAYS has a deep, dark, dirty secret in a Green novel). Is there a traitor in the Family? Has Eddie been on the wrong side all along? Did he really misunderstand poor lonely Jackie?

It comes right in the end, of course. You know that. In fact, if you’ve read Green’s Nightside series, you just about know from page one how this is going to work out: the author has his fixations. But the ride’s still wild enough to be fun. Get on board!

Copyright © 2008 by Danielle L. Parker

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