God and His sisters are dead. Don’t you hate when that happens? In Max Gladstone‘s Craft Sequence, it happens often enough. Or, it did, and now the humans are still dealing with the fallout. What do you do when your god dies? Why, you make idols with limited god-like abilities of course. At least, that’s what the people of Kavekana (loosely based on Hawaii) do. Full Fathom Five is the third published book in the series, but technically the latest book chronologically. Not sure where to start, read this post on Tor.
The universe Gladstone has been creating is like neoliberalism and globalization have overlayed magic, faith, and fantasy. Imagine an economy based on “soulstuff.” You can visualize it as magic, if you’re into Star Wars, you could see it as pieces of the Force, but literally, it is a part of you. Your soul. Soulstuff runs the economy in The Craft Sequence, and just as the frameworks of neoliberalism and globalization have created corporate hierarchies of lawyers, accountants, executives and all of the supporting infrastructure, so it is in Gladstone’s books. Faith and craft (magic), are governed by contracts and balance sheets.
In the latest novel, the island nation of Kavekana, plays the role of anonymous, offshore bank account with soulstuff invested in limitedly powered idols. If one puts in 100 credits of soulstuff, then they can withdraw a blessing for fertility. That kind of thing. Problems arise though when risky decisions cause an idol to essentially crash (like going bankrupt) and a discovery that the record books may not matchup. To make matters worse, on an island where the gods are dead and foreign gods aren’t allowed, it seems some minor gods are on the loose and helping homeless children.
The cast of characters include a workaholic priest; a disillusioned thief on the cusp of adulthood; Cat, the goddess-powered enforcer from Three Parts Dead; a dodgy poet; and Elayne Kevarian, to name a few. To increase the tension, Guardians, which are stone creatures that hold lawbreakers within their bodies while those who broke the law are painfully rehabilitated act as a scary security force on the island. As paths overlap and questions are pursued the mysteries unravel.
In terms of writing, this book is better developed than Two Serpents Rise, but still obvious. If Gladstone is going for surprising reveals, it isn’t working. If he’s looking to satisfy what the reader expected, then it does work. Unfortunately, I think his interest lies in the former.
Overall, I enjoyed Full Fathom Five and have already purchased the next book in the series. They’re light, quick to read, with some dark mirroring of our own world.