An urban fantasy that suffers from poor narrative decisions and questionable character depictions.
I’ll come right out and say that Patrick LeClerc’s urban fantasy Out of Nowhere was not a book I enjoyed. Although LeClerc is a skilled writer and there are a few aspects of the book I liked, there were several narrative decisions and character depictions that ranged from questionable to frustrating and offensive.
The story is a first-person account of Sean, a military veteran who now works as a paramedic in an urban Massachusetts town. Sean has the power to telekinetically heal injuries, which also allows him to live for untold centuries without aging past his thirty-year-old appearance. Sean hides his magical ability from the public so as not to be singled out but still secretly heals others in small doses during his work shifts. One of the aspects of the story I enjoyed was the authenticity of the narrator during Sean’s paramedic chapters. The medical terminology and workplace slang felt realistic. This isn’t a surprise, as I learned in the author’s bio that LeClerc shares many of the same traits as Sean. (This also gave me the sense that this book serves as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author, which brings with it its own set of problems, but more on that later.)
The story also has an exciting start. It immediately drops you right into a thrilling action scene before rewinding a few days to show how Sean winds up in this predicament. It’s a bit of a narrative trope, but effective. The pacing of the story was also well-written, and it moves by at a good clip. LeClerc shows a good sense of timing when jumping in and out of scenes, and it kept me turning the pages rather quickly. I raced through this story at a much faster rate than usual.
However, as the story progressed, there were quite a few passages that gave me pause. Unfortunately, these passages increased in frequency as the story progressed, and it got to the point where I considered not finishing the story. First, all females in this book are drop-dead gorgeous, and consistently described by their physical attributes and level of sex appeal. Sean’s coworker, Monique, is a constant target of sexist jokes (even from Sean!) but for some reason she giggles at Sean’s remarks while threatening others who make similar quips. Perhaps this is LeClerc’s way conveying his authentic experience as a paramedic, and these jokes are only supposed to be funny through the lens of his characters, but I ask… why even include this? It seems like the casual sexist and racist banter is included to show off the team’s camaraderie, but instead of laughing with them, I came away disgusted. These aren’t the type of people I want to spend time around. Later in the story, Sean mansplains the concept of “men” to Monique. “… it is a mark of maturity when a man realizes that complexity and dimension are good things in a woman and stops chasing bimbos. Much the same when kids grow up and start preferring aged sirloin to a McDonald’s hamburger.” Monique shakes her head at how females were just compared to meat, sighs, and smiles at how amusing he is. Ehhh.
The next female we meet is Sarah, another drop-dead gorgeous bombshell (this time, with glasses) who ends up in bed with Sean mere hours after they meet. This veers hard into “insta-love” territory. At one point, Sarah is beaten and tortured within an inch of her life by people who are trying to find and murder Sean. Does she get the hell away from the dangerous guy she just met? No, of course not. She goes along with whatever plan he comes up with and takes everything in stride. Plausibility is stretched, which is acceptable to a point, but certain lines of dialogue between them made me dislike Sean even more. Early on, after telling Sarah he won’t be going to her lectures, observes that “her smile remained in place, obviously hiding her disappointment that I wouldn’t be attending her class.” Obviously. That’s his take on a smile, huh?
The interactions between Sean and Sarah become even more male-gazey and borderline gross as the book continues. In case it’s not clear that Sean objectifies women, he removes all doubt. “Only slightly distracted by my injuries, I did my best to assure her that she held the prized position of object of my lust.” But the most egregiously offensive passage occurs near the end of the story, when Sean realizes why, after so many centuries without finding someone worthy of his ‘true love,’ he finally found it with Sarah. He soliloquies to the reader,
“Vast improvements had been made in the field of young women recently. For most of western history, they had been considered subservient to men, and while I’d certainly enjoyed the company of a number of them, and my tastes had always run toward the least subservient of the bunch, it certainly colored how they saw themselves. Then, very recently, when women had begun to make strides, there was a tendency to have a bit of a chip on the shoulder. Again, nothing I wasn’t willing to work around. But it was refreshing and exhilarating to meet a generation of women who truly felt that they were equals, who took it as a given that they deserved to be treated as such.”
According to Sean, oppressed women of the past who have a ‘chip on their shoulder’ is just something to be ‘worked around.’ But, now that women finally respect themselves (but only very recently!) as the level that men do, they’re suddenly worthy of his love and attention. If only they had known who they were missing out on all these years!
LeClerc published Out of Nowhere as the start of an ongoing series. I strongly believe he has the potential to write something of much higher quality, so I hope there has been some perspective gained over time. Unfortunately, at the present state, I cannot recommend this book in good conscience.
3.5 / 10
-- Adam Weller
Out of Nowhere is a decent, fast paced urban fantasy which will keep you entertained, but it’s not a book that will stay with you for a long time probably. It’s good but for me it doesn’t really stands out in its genre.
Sean Danet works as a paramedic, where he can use his skills unnoticed, without having to move around more often than necessary. Living for hundreds of years teaches a man how to keep a low profile and recognise the signs when it’s time to burn the bridges – not literally. Mostly. This time around Sean lives a decent life, is being surrounded by friends like Nique (who happens to be gorgeous and sexy and apparently everyone’s wet dream) and Peter who have his back no matter what, and has a job he loves. Things start to go ashtray when one day they are called to attend man who fell and broke his ankle. Sean uses his healing to spare the man some pain and an extra few days of immobility, and although he is not waiting for a thanks, a knife and several attempts on his and his friends’ lives is not exactly what he expects in return.
To figure out who and why wants to get him so bad, he seeks out the help of a linguistics professor. As it happens, Sarah is a beautiful (as every women in this book), clever, blonde woman with whom Sean instantly falls in love with. Now, I have nothing against a little bit of romance, but this one made me roll my eyes hard. Their relationship just happens too fast and has an insta-love kind of feel to it. I like strong, independent, smart female characters, but Sarah’s appearance and critical role in the events made me question how the hell did Sean survive hundreds of years? Apart from having fighting skills – having spent most of his life as a soldier – it’s a small miracle he can still keep himself alive. Sarah manages to solve most of his problems which would require logical thinking or computer usage. He just plays along and makes the plans as they dig deeper in the mystery. Overall, I didn’t really liked how women were treated. At least we learn Sean is a good cook and lover. To be fair, it was the worst possible time for me to read a book where the love affair has an important part in the plot. I also can’t comprehend how is it that he had absolutely no idea about the danger he was in, again, for hundreds of years? Or that he didn’t think there must be others with skills like his? Well, okay, we get an explanation for this, but would have made more sense if he encountered them somewhere during his life to give him an inkling. Would have added a bit more depth to the story in my opinion.
As for the writing, Out of Nowhere is mostly fast paced, and the scenes are rolling nicely after each other. LeClerc attempts to give a sarcastical voice to Sean, but not always succeeds. Still, some of the banter between the paramedics made me smile. I especially loved the way they got back to their manager who tried to set a new rule for them. The camaraderie was strong between them. From the way they interacted with each other and the ease LeClerc used the lingo with, it was quite obvious he feels at home there. The end is a bit rushed and I kind of waited for a climatic point towards the end, which didn’t really come. But I have to give extra points for Hungary being mentioned more than once [😉] Though I’m not sure if this gives us a bad publicity…
Overall, Out of Nowhere is an enjoyable urban fantasy, which brings nothing new to the genre, but has some interesting ideas and a potential to build on as the series continues.
6.0 / 10
-- Timy Takacs
4.8/10 from 1 reviews
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