Henchmen (Henchmen Book 1)
Author Eric Lahti had been offloading copies of his ebook Henchmen Series over at Smashwords for free during the corona virus crisis. Finally, China did something that had a positive result! (Too soon?) I picked up this series and have to admit that, while it risked being quite derivative, it has a lot of surprises packed into its relatively short length.
Steven, whose viewpoint the first person novella is written from, has fallen in with seven-foot tall woman, an “motorcycle club” member, an expert in being in places that he is not supposed to go and a hacker minus the Guy Fawkes mask. They pick up an ex-sushi plate (nude woman) at a restaurant after some nasty types try to have some “fun” with her. This leads to the group heading to New Mexico to encounter a government plot entwined with some very Lovecraftian style aliens (I think it was an alien) and someone of more divine status with some sophisticated taste in fashion. The self-stylised villains turn out to be the good guys against even bigger villains. Even among villains, you get the nice ones and the definitely more douchebag-types.
Henchmen is not a heavy read and seems to draw a lot inspiration from the likes of Richard Kadrey and other urban fantasy writers. Lahti's style is fast paced, packed with comments and even some references that I could understand (Asia CD's). Lahti certainly knows his way about a fight from a Kenpo viewpoint and has certainly done his homework on firearms. What comes out is a smooth narrative with very few stops that leads to a good, light read with some quite funny parts in it.
The characters are immediately likeable people, especially Steven, who is not shy about sharing snippets of life wisdom, such as his recommendation to try sushi and BDSM in the same meal. The characters are well developed in their individual personalities, though there were some moments where they seemed to be out-workings of Lahti's personality which obscured the distinctive qualities a little. This was a minor point and something that did not detract from the overall arch of each character.
The book itself has a few typing mistakes early on, but definitely not enough to cause on-going frustration. The quality of writing is excellent and there is enough left in the mystery of the people and events that keeps the reader coming back for more. Lahti really does play his cards close to his chest when it comes to details about who people are and what they are doing.
Henchmen is a short novel that could have easily been revised into something much longer, but given that brevity, the story is fast-paced and a lot of fun. It is a novel take on the urban fantasy genre and the tropes that are often present within it. I had a lot of fun reading this one.