Audiobook Review: Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of ‘Mancer
Publisher: Audible Studios (08/06/15)
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Narrator: Peter Brooke | Length: 11 hrs and 43 mins
Okay, I loved Flex. And not least because there was some of this:
Oh and also throw in a bit of this to boot:
But wait, maybe I should back up a bit. You want to know what the story is actually about. Well, welcome to the world of Flex, where it’s actually possible to love a thing so much, the power of your obsession can kick the laws of physics in the ass so hard that reality literally comes undone. This is what gives rise to the many different kinds of magic users. You get illustromancers. Deathmetalmancers. Collectomancers! Or even videogamemancers. In the case of Flex protagonist Paul Tsabo, he loves his job as a number-cruncher at his insurance company SO MUCH that he’s turned paperwork into more than just an art. He’s become a bureaucromancer, and this means he can work magic on anything in the world, as long as what he needs is logged somewhere on paper.
Thing is, if you’re not a ‘mancer, you can still use magic. Distilled magic can come in the form of crystallized Flex, a powerful drug brewed by ‘mancers. But working ‘mancy and using Flex can cause one hell of a blowback. Maybe with the power of Flex you can twist reality to match your vision – but only for a time. After the effects wear off, the backlash called Flux will hit. Because if there’s one thing the universe hates more than anything, it’s being bent to a magic user’s will. It will fight back with a vengeance, and you can bet the universe always wins.
So there’s a good reason why the general public doesn’t trust ‘mancers; the effects of their magic defy normality and prediction, and chaos typically follows where they go. For this reason, Paul has gone to great lengths to hide his bureaucromancy. But now there’s a dangerous ‘mancer known as Anathema out there, brewing some very powerful Flex. It’s causing a lot of accidents, a lot of deaths. One night, Paul and his daughter Aliyah become Anathema’s victims when a Flex user in his apartment causes a gas main to blow up. Paul’s ‘mancy saves his daughter’s life, but the little girl still ends up badly burned. To come up with the money for Aliyah’s reconstructive surgery, Paul must find a way to use his bureaucromancy without causing the Flux that will make things worse. And to do that, he must find a mentor.
Enter Valentine. The gamemancer. My heroine.
First I have to tell you that I’m a sucker for any book or story that has to do with video games. When I discovered what Valentine’s power meant, I had myself a squee moment. Flex is one of those books that worked perfectly for me, because it hit that special sweet spot balancing a complex magic system with all-out fun. The world of ‘mancy is full of potential and the possibility of pretty much any kind of ‘mancer you can think of, but all of it still works within the confines of rules that make sense.
Flex is also a book that’s full of heart. After all, so much of ‘mancy and becoming a ‘mancer has its roots in emotion. It’s about love and obsession, both the healthy and unhealthy kind. It’s the idea that you can want or believe in something so hard that the sheer force of that power will make it happen. For that reason, ‘mancers aren’t always happy people. Some are lonely. Some are angry. Some are lost and afraid. When push comes to shove, their obsessions and resulting ‘mancy are literally their ways to escape from the real world. And when it comes to Valentine, video games as escapism is something I can sympathize with and understand. More often than not though, the magic just makes ‘mancers feel even more alone and marginalized.
And also, who can blame Paul, the father who only wants the best for his daughter, even if it means seeking out a killer to help him give Aliyah the chance for a normal life? Flex is a thrilling journey through the dark underbelly of the drug trade, but it’s also about friendship and devotion and finding acceptance. It’s also a story about the desperate hunt for an evil villain, but one that will also allow you to geek out big time.
And geek out I did. I also laughed. And screamed. No doubt about it, Flex is the most fun I’ve had with a book in a long time. I was so glad when the audiobook finally released, because I had been wanting to read it forever, in part due to the amazing things I’ve heard from other reviewers. Now I understand what everyone was raving about. I’m a bit in love with this book. Can’t wait for the next one! Highly recommended.