Ignore the cover. Please. This book is pretty good, enjoyable with plenty of nutty characters, a wild plot and enough background to make it all work. Just get by the cover, open it up and enjoy.
Guy Riessen creates a world where all the Lovecraft horrors are real, where the veil between our world and Evil is slim and frayed. And researchers/monster-busters Derrick and Howard, with their team members Mary and Sara, are professors at Miskatonic U in the day and creepazoid slayers at night. Derrick teaches astrophysics and is an electronics whiz with eidetic memory. Howard, former military and NAS, is a peerless sharpshooter, teaches history and is a linguist. Mary is a medical doctor and scientist. Sara leads the team.
The chemistry among the team members is real and believable and makes the book. We open with Derrick and Howard investigating a poltergeist report in national forest somewhere remote in California. They enter a deserted house, find the meth operators cut up in the basement and barely manage to escape a giant bone monster. In fact Derrick breaks his leg and the necromancer behind the trouble captures Derrick to learn as much as he can about security around artifacts that Miskatonic holds.
This small part and a few others were a bit confusing. Howard gets away but Derrick doesn’t, yet Howard leaves and we don’t even see where the necromancer had been hiding. With books like Piercing the Veil you usually find a few implausible leaps of plot, and if the author is good you don’t stop reading, you shrug and go on. That’s what I did.
I’ve been reading several books in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series and found Piercing the Veil a notch above for readability and enjoyment. (Correia spends way too much time describing his guns.) It reminds me of Charles Stross’ Laundry series more than anything else, but with less moral ambiguity, less bureaucracy, and more interesting people and more fun.
Piercing the Veil spends many pages showing the interplay between Howard and Derrick. Both are – or can be – completely serious, adult, dedicated. In the meantime they play games like Dungeons and Dragons, drink beer and watch bad movies. They are friends. Derrick is the prototypical clueless nerd, desperate to go past “colleagues and friends” into romance land with Sara, but he’s afraid and keeps waiting for the perfect moment. Howard urges him to man up, stop waiting and take a chance but it doesn’t happen here.
Riessen describes Mary as the stereotype girl scientist, right down to glasses, lab coat and pocket protector, but it’s obvious that Mary is far more. She and Sara risk their lives working with Howard and Derrick to stop the Shadow Men, then the necromancer. All four have unique gifts and one of Mary’s is the ability to see real vs. fake artifacts, to see through magical deceptions. The book ends with her discovering that the recovered artifacts are mostly fake…leading of course to a sequel!
We don’t get a good idea of the villainous necromancer. He’s obviously short on ethics, but we don’t know much about his motivation. You have to be pretty motivated to kill a bunch of people, suck an entire town into worshiping the elder pseudo-gods, kill even more people, sacrifice more people, and send Shadows against the Miskatonic team. We know his wife and son were killed in a brutal attack, but not who killed them, why or how that connects to his nastiness now. That’s probably in the sequel too.
Piercing the Veil is not great literature. it is entertainment. It’s reasonably well-written, with a fast plot that’s fun to read, with characters that I liked, with a villain that is not so villainous as to be unbelievable. I will certainly look for the sequel.
I tend to rate books at face value; so a book that aims to entertain and does so, that only minor eye-rolling moments, that keeps my interest, that I look forward to reading, that I stayed up to finish, I rate based on the entertainment value, not for its literary quality.
4 Stars (entertainment)