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Snake Agent by Liz Williams
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    Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (LongDogMom)
    LongDogMom: Both feature unusual supernatural mysteries
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Snake Agent is a combination of so many great things that it would be really hard not to find at least one or two things to like.
At its core it is an urban fantasy set in near future that takes place in Singapore. Number three. You see there are more of those and this one is just as crowded and corrupted as any other.

Then it's science fiction. People use something called bioweb, and a young person can earn a lot of money acting as nexus. This is not just thrown in there just for the sake of info dumping. All throughout the book, there are mentions of bioweb and biolinks, and they do have an important place in the story.

Then you get a bit of a horror too (lower levels of Hell sound interesting). Not as much as I'd like, but the possibilities for future books are there. It seems that every place in one realm has its correlating place in others. They are not identical though.

You even get a bit of romance, but I'd rather it didn't. While I do read romance, this book honestly didn't need it at all.

The world-building is extraordinary. Hell, Heaven and Earth are connected. It doesn't matter if there are some who don't believe in afterlife, the afterlife is there anyway. You need immigration visas to enter those realms if you are alive. Hell has its own ministries: War, Flesh, Earthquakes, Epidemics, Lust and so on. There are agents working on all three sides, though the Celestial one was neglected in this book. Not a great loss because you get to meet the Vice Division agent Zhu Irzh. 'That uncomfortable, nagging, sensation was back. He'd suffered from this on and off since childhood, like the prick of a pin inside his mind, and had even gone so far as t visit a remedy maker. What had the old man called it? Conscience, or some such - a human disease, anyway, and there was apparently nothing that could be done about it.' The protagonist Detective Inspector Wei Chen, protege of a goddess Kuan Yin and someone who is connected to both Earth and Hell, ends up working with a demon cop. ' "You don't really want to do this, Zhu Irzh." "Are you accusing me of having principles?" the demon said, outraged.'A young girl died and her mother found out that she ended up in Hell. 'Usually, if you die in a normal manner, an officer comes to you with a warrant, and takes you to the Night Harbor, which is where the boat leaves for the other worlds.' Chen would soon realize that ghost's disappearance is only a small piece of a greater and much more dangerous puzzle.
The protagonists are not the only colourful characters in this book. I loved the First Lord of Banking, the demon lord who gave Zhu Irzh the assignment.
There are those that grow and change in the book like Sargent Ma, who has to overcome his upbringing even to speak to Chan because of his connection to Hell.

And, now the nitpicks: I hate love triangles with passion and there was this cloud of one threatening my reading experience for quite a large part of the book. The resolution was tepid at best ('oh, now that I've mentioned something like that, I'll just add or mention another character') and the worst thing about it is that it doesn't add anything to the story. It's not a game changer. Fortunately, it's not that pronounced.
Then there is the might leave for my lover's good trope. That too was just swept under the rug. Unnecessary also.

I loved this book and I haven't even scratched the surface here.
( )
  Aneris | Oct 31, 2016 |
Fun read; different "world"; location is "Singapore Three" ... notion being that Singapore has "franchised it's model of city-building! (really part of china); Dealings between the world, and Heaven and Hell, while not strictly routine, happen often enough that the police dept has a detective specializing in Supernatural cases and their own staff exorcist ( )
  GeetuM | Jun 3, 2016 |
For whatever reason, I never connected to Snake Agent. Even when there was something about it that I normally would have found interesting, it just never drew me in.

Snake Agent is an urban fantasy, science fiction, mystery mash up set in an alternate universe where Singapore’s started franchising. Detective Inspector Chen handles supernatural cases for the Singapore Three police. He regularly deals with Heaven, Hell, and the spirits of the deceased. He soon becomes unwittingly embroiled in an investigation involving the trafficked souls of young girls and a conspiracy within Hell’s Ministry of Epidemics.

The part that I would normally find interesting was the world building. Even from the brief description I gave above, it’s clear that there’s a lot going on within the world of Snake Agent. Probably my favorite detail was that modern technology has speed up the bureaucratic processes within Heaven and Hell. I could imagine the settings clearly, and Hell was inventively disgusting. However, none of this really got me engaged with the book. And unfortunately, I never connected well enough to the characters or cared enough about the plot for those aspects to make the book worthwhile for me.

Chen was the normally by the books detective who was becoming conflicted due to associations with those who would normally be his opponents. In this case, it was primarily Seneschal Zhu Irzh, his counter part in Hell who he winds up working with as a partner, and his demonic wife Inari. Zhu and Inari both had POV sections in addition to Chen, as well as even some more minor characters like Sergeant Ma. I don’t think all of these POV characters were necessary to the book. In particular, I don’t know what Inari’s POV sections added as they didn’t tie strongly to the plot and Inari herself was not a very active character. In the end, I’m not sure what Inari contributed, besides having her existence be a conflict for Chen.

The plot has many different threads to it, and it did end up coming together as I predicted. However, I was hoping that the book would become more exciting or that I would care more once it drew closer to the climax. Neither occurred. I also wasn’t fond of the device where the author shows a snippet of the climax right at the beginning to try and get the reader immediately involved. It feels like clumsy manipulation. Obviously, a book should be manipulating a reader’s emotions (or else what is the point?), but in this case I found it blatant and ineffective.

I don’t think Snake Agent was bad exactly; I just didn’t find it very interesting. It’s unlikely to be a book I recommend in the future, and I’m not planning on continuing with the series.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | May 4, 2016 |
Detective Inspector Chen serves in Singapore Three with a particular focus. He can travel between this world and Hell (all levels) and has a partner demon named Zhu Irzh. He is even married to a demon named Inari and they live on a houseboat with a badger/teakettle.

Chen and Zhu are called on to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an industrialist which calls attention to the disappearances of many young women in recent days.

Williams gives us a totally new world with new situations which play on Oriental theologies. There is no lack of gore, horrid smells, and terrible characters as you might well expect. Through it all Chen banks on his relationship with the goddess Kuan Yin who helps in travel between worlds.

Something different. ( )
  mamzel | Feb 7, 2016 |
I read this back in 2006 and just reread it for a review for a reissue.

here is the original review I had on my journal.

Well reading the short story that composes part of this novel sent me reading the full length novel ASAP. I had it but had been saving it. I don't know why I do that but sometimes I do, silly yes I know. Well I liked it so much that I got the paperback so I could finish reading it on the plane without dragging the hardcover with me and having something happen to it. I really like the world setup in this. The in depth setup of the underworld's government and dealings was wonderful. As much as I liked Chen, the hero I really liked Zhu Irzh, the cop from the underworld. He almost seems to be more of a fish out of water than Chen. Of course it is just manifesting with him versus Chen who has been dealing with being on the fringe for a long time. Now to find where I left the sequel somewhere around the house.

And now reading it 7 years later it was just as fun and now I want to dive right back into this world. ( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jul 8, 2014 |
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Hanging by his heels and twisting slowly in the draught that slipped beneath the crimson door, Detective Inspector Chen tried desperately to attract the demon's attention.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159780018X, Hardcover)

You were supposed to go to Heaven, but ended up in one of the many Chinese hells instead. Who you gonna call? Nobody, you're dead. Luckily, in future Singapore, Detective Chen is on the case. Specializing in supernatural crimes, Chen finds himself in hell teaming up with a demon cop to solve the mystery, return a lost soul to its rightful reward, and restore harmony between Heaven and Earth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:21 -0400)

In a near future that allows travel between Heaven and Hell and Earth, "snake agent" Chen finds himself in hot pursuit of ghost-girl, Pearl Tang, and the father who murdered her to protect his business of "supplying the souls of the virtuous to Hell". Chen is not only a crack paranormal crime investigator but also a licensed feng shui practitioner never without his compass.… (more)

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