A review copy was provided by Trident Media Group.
Not long ago I read the first book in Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble novel series. I greatly enjoyed the novel for its light-hearted humor and world-building in particular. I recently finished the second book in the series, Unnatural Acts, and decided to review it as well. Did lightning strike twice or should this series be laid to rest?
Unnatural Acts throws Dan Chambeaux (commonly called “Shamble” to his chagrin) back into a flurry of cases. A corporation known as The Smile Syndicate has started buying up property in the Unnatural Quarter in hopes of commercializing the district. Furthermore, Senator Balfour, a hater of the non-human and formerly human Unnaturals (zombies, werewolves, mummies, etc.) pursues a campaign to pass the Unnatural Acts Act in Congress in order to remove rights from these individuals. Shamble’s also got a group of out-of-work Golems to deal with and an undead brothel to defend from vandals. What will become of all these cases, set to the backdrop of a group of ghost performers known as Shakespeare in the Dark?
Once again, Anderson’s wry humor shines through in this book. There aren’t any moments that are laugh out loud funny, but there are enough clever jokes that you might find yourself stifling a chuckle. The series’s world-building continues in this book, though to a lesser degree than the first installment; even so, it’s welcome (and funny) to see Anderson address ideas like ghost convicts and undead prostitution. We also get to see more development of the relationship between Dan and Sheyenne, an interesting dynamic since she’s an incorporeal spirit.
Sadly, I feel that overall this book is weaker than Death Warmed Over. The opening is especially slow, since Anderson reiterates character introductions, motivations, and backstories that were discussed in the first book. It’s hard to fault the author for doing so, since the goal is no doubt to accommodate new readers, but, for me at least, these sections felt like they could have been abridged. Furthermore, sections of the plot were too similar to the first book: another big evil corporation that seems benevolent on the surface messing around in the quarter? Another Anti-Undead hate group gathering steam? The parts of the story I liked best dealt with the plot threads unrelated to these two ideas, which were major story focuses. Also, though it’s a minor complaint, I did notice a few continuity errors in the book, mostly related to the naming and descriptions of minor characters.
Ultimately, Unnatural Acts is a good book, but nowhere near the quality of Death Warmed Over. It’s enjoyable, but I think a new reader would like it more than an established fan of the first novel.
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