The Longest Con, by Michaelbrent Collings, is a book that Michaelbrent obviously wrote for himself. The premise is this: at comic conventions, people come dressed up as monsters. Well, monsters come dressed up as people, too, and in order to keep the body count down authors are hired to keep the monsters in their place. Michaelbrent is one of those authors in this first-person narrative, called a Warder, and his job is to investigate monsters that are causing mayhem at the cons.
This book is one part fandom service, one part fantasy, one part satire, and one part self-gratification. There were bits that I found honestly funny (though I didn’t laugh out loud. Then again, I’ve found I never laugh out loud while reading books. I may chuckle, or grunt approvingly, but never laugh), and others that had me groaning. Other parts I found offensive to comic convention attendees (for example, unless they were monsters disguised as beauties, com attendees were mainly described as dweebs in poorly-constructed cosplay costumes). And for a book that’s supposed to appeal to comic convention attendees (as in, it’s the main audience the book is aiming for), that’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s a very bad thing. (And don’t get me started on the Nerdfather! That whole scenario…ugh. As someone who likes fandoms, conventions, cosplay, and roleplaying…ugh. Just…ugh. Know your audience, Collings. Know your audience)
There were tidbits that I enjoyed, such as the Kevin Bacon brownies (as in the cleaning fairies, not the baked goods) and a dwarf named Gandhi, but there were other bits that, I felt, gummed up the works and slowed things down considerably. Honestly, I stopped reading this book partway through to go and read two books in The Unseen trilogy (which I reviewed recently). If Collings had cut the bit about him, as a Warder, hunting and killing Cthulhu’s…granddaughter, I think?…then the book would have gone a lot smoother. Though, I confess, I would have enjoyed reading about the fallout of that event a lot more than what I got in this book.
The main mystery is another thing that had me rolling my eyes. We start with the death of one of Cthulhu’s descendants, and Cthulhu threatening Michaelbrent’s life, but then we switch to a murder mystery. Aannnd (grand reveal) the murdered victim is a werewolf. The likely suspect? A vampire.
That’s right, ladies and gents. Instead of a story we don’t get very often, we get a variation on a common theme: werewolves vs. vampires. And, instead of a ragtag team of authors fighting to keep the con safe from the monsters that roam therein, we get Michaelbrent, with the occasional help of other authors who have been blessed with superpowers, bumbling around like a comic book extra (except he’s the main character). I suppose he made himself under-powered so that readers wouldn’t roll their eyes at how super awesome the author made himself, but he’s the only one in the author group without superpowers. And yet he’s the one who was chosen to keep the vampires and werewolves from going to war.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, there were other things I found interesting, like how sunlight is a narcotic for vampires, not an explosive agent. Or how Oracles exist (oh wait, no, that was another extraneous plot point that occurred in the last quarter of the book to help fix things that didn’t really need fixing in another way). I just…I wanted to read this book and have fun with it. Some of it was fun, but most of it was…long. And it felt like it was a Dresden Files wannabe. Except I love Dresden Files. I want to own the entire collection someday. So this…it couldn’t hold a candle to Harry Dresden. Harry Dresden would beat Kevin J. Anderson (this book’s wizard) even if he had half his magic stolen, his blasting rod smashed to smithereens, and Bob on a hiatus. And then afterwards he’d go down to the con, watch a couple of panels, eat some corn dogs, and get an autographed copy of one of Anderson’s Star Wars books. And don’t get me started on what he’d do to those vampires and werewolves (the answer, probably accidentally kill most of them and start a war anyway, but he’d figure out who killed that werewolf princess in half the time!).
Hmm…methinks I’m missing Harry Dresden. Maybe I’ll have to pick up the next book in the series soon (where I’m at, not what’s been published. I’m woefully behind).