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The Last Hot Time Paperback – November 15, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Brilliant is as brilliant does, and Ford's first excursion into enigmatic, offbeat speculative fiction in seven years bids fair to win him yet another World Fantasy Award, as did The Dragon Waiting. In this mesmerizing near-future scenario, most of Earth's technologyDman's "magic"Dhas been destroyed by the immortal Elves who once coexisted with primitive hominids, then vanished back into the parallel universe of Elfland. When the Elves return a generation after JFK's assassination, they witness, horrified, what man has become, and they strike out in panic, blasting most of Chicago. Young paramedic Danny Holman, heading toward Chicago's Elf-gang-ridden heart, saves the life of a young woman wounded severely in a drive-by shooting. The mysterious Mr. Patrise rewards Danny with a new identityD"Doc Hollownight"Dand a job as house medic to Patrise's web of underground nightclubs. Danny also gets involved in Patrise's clandestine operations against Whisper-Who-Dares, the loathsome Elf who fuels his insatiable lust for power by flaying humans alive, feeding off their unspeakable agonies. Whether human, minor Elf nobility (the Ellyon) or Highborn Urthas Elves, Ford's generous cast of characters continually surprises, intrigues and pulses with life, a tribute to his power as a storyteller. Haunting, puzzling, even unsettling and deliberately obscure, this improvisatory jazzlike riff of good and evil in the context of a most unusual growing-up story is bittersweet as first love and loss, a minor-key elegy for the death of youth and innocence. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
When he stops to administer first aid to a gunshot victim, paramedic Danny Holman steps out of his old life and into a bizarre underworld of fast-talking, magic-wielding elves who dub him Doc Hallows and promise him a future beyond his wildest dreams. Ford depicts a modern-day world inhabited by supernatural creatures who enjoy fast cars, hard liquor, and the sound of money even as they keep alive the old traditions of fairy curses and otherworldly magic. By turns violent and funny, the latest novel by the author of The Dragon Waiting delivers a rapid-fire modern fantasy suitable for most libraries.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In search of adventure, wealth, and fast times, small town paramedic Danny Holmon heads into Chicago, a city like many others in this post-apocalyptic America where Elftown has returned and merged with human cities, creating clear borders between the two. Those borders are no man's lands of opportunity and horror where a bit of magic and an old coin can restart a movie projector, heal a broken body, or get a person killed. Danny meets a cast of underworld human figures that have been touched by elfin magic in one way or another. Some now have small abilities that make their daily lives easier, some have broken minds that keep them from ever truly being human again, while others have learned to use the elves own magic against them. The gang Danny falls in with is made up of humans with an elf who is fond of fast cars and submachine guns. Their largest rival is a gang led by an elf with a taste for human women he can use, abuse, and leave dying in the streets.
Gambling, magic, and turf wars make up Danny's new life and he couldn't be happier. The character portrayals are rich, deep, personable, and profound, walking a knife's edge between realism and archetype that makes each one of them both as easy to like as the next door neighbor and as larger than life as a prohibition bank robber.
There's magic here, and science, and layered meaning so deep it takes a lifetime of reading just to tap the surface.
Interestingly, much of the contemporary feel of the book was not contemporary at all but had more of a 1920s, Chicago gangland, Al Capone feel. The elves did not like certain forms of human technology, such as television or color movies and therefore they somehow did away with them.
As far as how exactly to rate this, I am still scratching my head over this one. The writing is top-notch and that probably goes without mention, for John M. Ford has a sterling reputation for tight writing. However, there are quite a few things going on in this book—allegories, I suppose—which didn’t enter my head. I enjoyed the story, but I was left with the distinct feeling that the book was trying to convey some deeper truth, but I couldn’t discern what that was. Perhaps I need to dwell on it longer.
Yes, more times than anyone could count. Mike lived in Minneapolis, and was a close friend of the writers in and around that milieu -- Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Pamela Dean, Neil Gaiman, Adam Stemple, and many others. He was also a friend to many of the Bordertown/Fairytales/Ace/Tor fantasy authors who didn't live in Minneapolis, such as Terri Windling, Jane Yolen, Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman.
Mike Ford had a lot of friends. He was generally beloved.
One underappreciated fact about him is that he's a character in the Bordertown series. The "M" in "John M. Ford" stood for "Milo." When you're reading the series, watch out for references to a Bordertowner named "Milo Chevrolet."
2. Is The Last Hot Time related to the Bordertown series?
Yes. It was originally conceived as a Bordertown novel, but it mutated so much in the telling that Terri Windling and Mike amicably agreed that he would move it out of the series proper. It didn't move very far, as witness the fact that Linn and Rico can wander in unannounced.
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who's familiar with the history of his Star Trek tie-in novels.
The story is complex (for such a short book), and the pace of the story is such that it must be read closely if you want to catch every detail. But you don't have to -- you can read it once just to float along on the tide of language, and then read it again to appreciate his craft at story-telling.
Don't choose it (or abandon it) based on the theme; as with everything Ford wrote, his take on the subject matter is unique.
I don't give many books five stars. This is a six star book. Ford was a genius, and his untimely death a tragedy.
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