Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Review: Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz

Author:  Ferrett Steinmetz
Series:  Flex 1
Publisher:  Angry Robot Books, March 3, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780857664600 (print)
Cover ArtSteven Meyer-Rassow
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

A desperate father will do anything to heal his daughter in a novel where Breaking Bad meets Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.

FLEX: Distilled magic in crystal form. The most dangerous drug in the world. Snort it, and you can create incredible coincidences to live the life of your dreams.

FLUX: The backlash from snorting Flex. The universe hates magic and tries to rebalance the odds; maybe you survive the horrendous accidents the Flex inflicts, maybe you don’t.

PAUL TSABO: The obsessed bureaucromancer who’s turned paperwork into a magical Beast that can rewrite rental agreements, conjure rented cars from nowhere, track down anyone who’s ever filled out a form.

But when all of his formulaic magic can’t save his burned daughter, Paul must enter the dangerous world of Flex dealers to heal her. Except he’s never done this before – and the punishment for brewing Flex is army conscription and a total brain-wipe.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Magic Pill • Firestarter • Bureaucramancy • The Flex & the Flux ]

Melanie's Thoughts:

Paul Tsabo has a life of regrets. He regrets what happened to his marriage, regrets killing the 'mancer (magic user) who caused him to lose his foot but most of all he regrets every starting to use mancy. Of course, he thinks he is different, he isn't a Flex addict and that he is using his magic for good. The former cop believes he is helping people in his dead-end job working for an insurance company by using his magic to help the needy get the money owed to them. Everything changes when Paul's daughter is horrifically burnt in a fire started by someone using Flex.

Paul is on a mission to find anyone or anything that can help him heal his daughter. Mancy seems to be the cause and solution of all his problems. He ends up joining forces with the videomancer Valentine who uses her magic to turn life into one big Mario Brothers game. Valentine is everything Paul isn't but together they go toe to toe with some of the scariest villains in town. Steinmetz takes both Paul and the reader on a wild, high octane ride. I started out quite liking this book. I thought that Steinmetz was incredibly innovative in his world building. The Flex, the Flux and the mancy all combined with Paul's quest for a way to heal his daughter all made for a great read. However, Steinmetz made critical mistake that caused me to lose interest halfway through. The pace of the story turned too frenetic, too many terrible things happened to Paul and Valentine and more importantly, Paul came through it almost completely unscathed. Needless to say Paul is injured by the continual onslaught of action grew tiresome.

In what I think was an attempt to have Paul go through some metamorphosis from innocent to ruthless Steinmetz introduces both Paul and the reader to the drug lord Gunza. I couldn't figure out what the point of this character was other than to add a bit more horror to the plot. The Gunza subplot lasted several chapters and I found myself rushing through them in the hopes of relief. Even by the ending I couldn't figure out exactly why this character had so many chapters dedicated to him. Steinmetz could have easily have trimmed the plot and stuck to the main villain Anathema rather than focusing so many pages on Gunza and his brother Oscar. Overall, this is an innovative and interesting debut but I hope that Steinmetz keeps the plot a bit tighter in future books. Although I was disappointed with aspects of the plot I think that Steinmetz was very clever in his world building. The Flex, Flux and different types of mancers kept me reading when I might have put the book down. Beware as Flex is not for someone who can't stomach copious amounts of swearing, violence and poor personal hygiene. Fantastic cover, if not a bit creepy.


  1. Huh, very different to my take. I liked the Gunza/Oscar stuff. I figure it does important work giving the reader a picture of the kind of seedy underworld scene a drug like flex would create. And also to give us a close up look at some of the horrible consequences the drug can have, particularly when it is created without consequences. I also have the distinct impression that we need this story for a very important part of the next book.

    Poor personal hygiene? Who had poor personal hygiene?

    1. One of things I like the best about reviewing books (other than the books themselves) is reading other people's comments to my review especially when they don't agree with me.

      I think it is interesting that you liked the Gunzo plot line as it gave you more background to that aspect of the plot whereas I just felt that those two characters didn't need so much page time. For me less is more but that is my preference.

      Personal hygiene? Valentine, of course...perhaps extended to lack of housekeeping skills