Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Tomorrow The Killing

by Daniel Polansky


It's several years after the events of The Straight Razor Cure, but Warden hasn't changed. He's still a druggie and an ass, with a smart mouth at the stupidest of times. He's bitter, cynical and fearless, although the latter mostly shows itself in his compulsion to goad people for no good reason. The story starts when the old general Montgomery summons Warden to do a job for him. His daughter Rhaine is missing in Low Town, and he wants her found and brought back home.

However Rhaine doesn't want to go home before she's done what she set out to do. Her older brother, who she's come to idolise as a war hero, was murdered some years ago. Now she wants justice for him, and to find out who was behind his killing. Roland Montgomery was a charismatic officer, and after the war he founded the Veterans' Association. Now the Association is agitating for better pensions and conditions for all the "heroes" of the war. A big rally is in the works, and this has agents of the crown worried because it smacks of an uprising, although the march is supposed to be peaceful.

Tomorrow the Killing jumps around in time a lot. There are flashbacks from Warden's past in the Dren war, and his view of exactly how many glorious heroes were involved in it. There's a grittiness in this book to rival Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy. Warden takes a very bleak view of humanity, from the corruption of those in power to the cowardice or savagery of soldiers and the underclass. These flashback chapters get quite confusing because there are so many of them, and none are labelled with dates so I was always having to spend the first page of each chapter figuring out when we were in Warden's lifetime. It breaks the flow of the story. I also got the impression that not very much was happening other than a lot of talking, spying, and ominous hints for at least the first half of the story. In between abusing his liver and irritating his friends, Warden just seemed to be paying people visits and putting wheels in motion.

Wren, who we met in the first book as a skinny street kid, is now a skinny teenager. But he's developed a magical spark that will get him carted off into an institution if it's discovered. If he doesn't learn to use it properly his talents could also lead to madness. But Warden has too much going on already, so finding the surly boy a tutor isn't going to be easy.

"He still looked like he could toss a cow over a wall," is the characteristically colourful way the author describes Adolphus, one of Warden's few friends. Adolphus is getting deeply involved with the Association at a time when that might not be a safe choice. So there's a lot going on, and the pace improves a great deal when Warden's scheming comes to a head and he runs the risk of his plans getting discovered by all the factions he's trying to play off against one another.

The main character isn't morally upright, or hard working, or pleasant, and he rarely stands up for anything worthwhile. In some ways he's scarcely distinguishable from all the other villains and degenerates of the Low Town underworld. About his only redeeming feature is his patter, and because this is consistently entertaining it tips him over the edge into likeableness. The story has a cunning ending with a really good payoff. But Warden's personality is the only thing that keeps the narrative interesting during the book's stodgy middle, when elaborate set-up and overlong episodes of back story slow the pace.

25th September 2012

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

  Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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4 star rating

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