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Book Review: Flex

Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz

FLEX: Distilled magic in crystal form. The most dangerous drug in the world. Snort it, and you can create incredible coincidences to live the life of your dreams.

FLUX: The backlash from snorting Flex. The universe hates magic and tries to rebalance the odds; maybe you survive the horrendous accidents the Flex inflicts, maybe you don’t.

PAUL TSABO: The obsessed bureaucromancer who’s turned paperwork into a magical Beast that can rewrite rental agreements, conjure rented cars from nowhere, track down anyone who’s ever filled out a form.

But when all of his formulaic magic can’t save his burned daughter, Paul must enter the dangerous world of Flex dealers to heal her. Except he’s never done this before – and the punishment for brewing Flex is army conscription and a total brain-wipe.

Some books deserves a, no need a direct sequel. Flex is one of them to be sure. Ferret Steinmetz has written a lot of short fiction to some big magazine, I think Flex is his first full length fiction book. As I always say Urban Fantasy is very popular genre and every author interprets it differently, I can safely say that I read some very diverse Urban Fantasy so to come with something that I haven't read before takes some creativity, and this is precisely what Ferrett Steinmetz brings to the table. A very unique magic system that is above many other things just pretty darn awesome to read. Lets hope this is just the start of a something fresh and exciting in the genre. 

The story of Flex centers around Paul Tsabo, a retired policeman who now finds himself working for the Samaritan Insurance company on a bureaucratic desk job, using his bureaumancer abilities daily. During his time at the force he had a run in with an illusiomancer and his foot got crushed and he now wears a titanium alloyed one. Since Paul is well familiar with mancers, having dealt with them on the force and being one himself he is the best appointed guy for the Samaritan Insurance company to deal with mancer related claims. Now you might wonder what is so bad about using a little magic? The whole of Europe got destroyed by use of this flex magic (I will get more into detail what flex magic is) and America has taken the necessary action to contain and control flex users... So you can imagine that Paul walks a very thin line... One day when Paul's daughter, Aliya, is at his place a terrorist mancer strike hits his appartment building teribbly wounding his daughter in the process. The big insurance company for which Paul works is refusing to cover the costs for her, she got burned terribly and need a lot of work down. You can imagine that Paul is pissed, first he wants to get revenge and secondely he need to find a way to help Aliya get back on her feet again. There isn't much left to do but follow the trail and get into the dark alleys where the dangerous Flex dealers dwell. Here he meets up with another mancer, a videomancer called Valentine who is able to take on the identity of videogame characters. They divise a plan to help Paul raise the money to help his daughter but when you start making Flex, you open a whole can of worm and before Paul knows it, he is up to his knees in trouble.

I really like the story that Ferrett Steinmetz put down in Flex, as I mentioned above this is precisely the type of story that I seek, authors that do something new and bring a refreshing air to fiction. The story is very cleverly put together it is not just a simple magic system its complex. Luckily the writing style of Ferret Steinmetz is clear and very good to understand, though in some points during the story I had to reread some paragraphs to make it be more understandable for me. Mainly because of the cool idea behind the book Flex magic, I was so drawn into the story that I just had to finish this book no matter the cost. 

Well I have been talking about Flex a few times already but what is Flex? Flex is the magic system, it is something that mancers (people who have the magic powers) can turn into Flex. Which other people in turn can use. Mancer themselves can use there powers without having to take in Flex. As the name implies, with Flex you can bend reality to your liking, you can do whatever you want. But with such a things comes a heavy price known as Flux. Since you are flexing reality, bending it, it is not natural and nature itself fights against it, so everytime you bend it, you get a backlash depending on what you wanted to heavy. Just to name an example of Flex powers, Paul is able, with his bureaucramancy to flex contracts one very cool ability that he has is that he can write something up in a contract and sign it (not even physically) and bam the contract works, think of conjuring a car through a DMV paper, or even so far as finding the person who signed the contract. It's very versatile and I think you will be amazed by what Ferrett Steinmetz will have in story for you. Next to the powers of Paul, there are I think unlimited mancer types, some others that are mentioned in the book are polkamancy, death metalmancy and illustromancers. All of these have there own strong and weak points. The great thing about Flex is, is that it is naturally balanced by the Flux, there is always a drawback and no one is ever powerful.

As for the characters, Paul get the most screen. I liked his character from the start. A divorced father who tries to make the best of his situation and cares dearly for his daughter. He and his ex-wife are still on ok footing but there are tensions. Just a few pages in I found that Ferrett Steinmetz did a very good job in showing real characters. Paul is flawed but he wants to make the best of his situation. Next to Paul, Aliya his daughter also get a nice highlight, she is young girl and doesn't know what her father is, I mean to say Paul being a mancer and all, but during the course of the story, things are changing... especially by the introduction of Valentine, a chubby girl but excellent mancer, who become good friends and from who Aliya can lend all the videogames she want during her recovery. Valentine was for em a complicated character and I think in the end it is best to say that Valentine doesn't really know what she wants. One thing that is always a plus for me is showing the bad guys, well there are plenty of them here, as Paul has to deal with a lot of scum who deal in Flex. Though I liked that Ferrett Steinmetz showed Gunza, I just wanted to have that part to have more to it, yes he is a basterd but it felt a bit to sudden in certain scenes. But overall Gunza perspective added a lot of flavour to the story and gave it a nice roundness. 

I am going to repeat myself. Flex needs a direct sequel! period. I am always on the look out for the next thing in fantasy and Ferrett Steinmetz' Flex completely lives up to this promise. It's fresh, it's exciting and it's a whole lot of fun to read. It could also be the pubilsher to be honest as the majority of the books that I read from Angry Robots fall into the category of genre pushing. In Flex Ferret Steinmetz introduces an flexable world (to a certain degree), some very well fleshed out characters and of course one of the coolest magical system that I have the pleasure of reading about. Highly recommended!


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