Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Powers That Be

The Tarot cards have always fascinated me.

It is the way the symbols work on the viewer that has always been the draw for me, not so much the idea of their use as an oracle. While having a discussion with my brother concerning the Tarot, I also expressed the fact that I was in a weird book limbo, where I didn't have anything that was particularly calling out to me to be read. Never at a loss for a book recommendation, my brother promptly put a lending copy of Tim Powers' Last Call in my hand.

Now, I suffer from a strange malady that I am sure probably has a medical term. That is, whenever someone lends me a book or movie with much enthusiasm, there is a demonic force in me that resists delving into the material; I don't know why. I have nothing but the greatest respect for my brother's taste in literature, and when I do finally get around to reading his recommendations, I am rarely disappointed. So this time I thought, "Dang it, don't be an asshole. READ THE BOOK!

And I am glad I did.

Last Call is one weird book. It is also fascinating, engrossing, funny, horrifying and epic. It was one of the rare books that just completely kept me guessing all the way to the end. It concerns one Scott Crane, a One-eyed Jack; that is, the son of a very twisted man who happens to be the King of our twisted world by way of a mythic cosmology that dates back to the Fisher King. If the Fisher King remains wounded, the land is wounded, and this particular King's wound is greed for immortality. He has devised a method of bedevilling certain "fish", (that is poker players drawn to an exclusive game), out of their bodies through a magical poker game called "Assumption." Every twenty years he holds a game in which he snares new victims, and as he wears out one body he spiritually assumes another. Scott, as his son, is in line to be a King himself, but Daddy has other plans-he wants to "assume" his own son.
If it all sounds a little mystical, it is. But by blending poker, Tarot, magic, history, Vegas lore, and a host of colorful characters , Powers weaves a completely original and spellbinding story with plenty of action and lots to think about to boot. I understand that this is the first of a trilogy, and I am sure that my trusted brother will have a lending copy of the next two volumes for me when next we meet. Maybe there is hope for me overcoming my malady after all...