Book Review: Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

Posted August 5, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 3 Comments

Book Review: Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Published by DAW Books on March 3, 2015
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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Endangered, adjective: Threatened with extinction or immediate harm.

Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own. The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground. Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.

Also by this author: Chimes at Midnight, Indexing, The Winter Long, The InCryptid Prequels, A Red Rose Chain, Reflections, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Chaos Choreography, Magic For Nothing, Indigo, Every Heart a Doorway, The Brightest Fell, "Of Things Unknown", Beneath the Sugar Sky, Night and Silence, "Suffer a Sea-change", The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, "The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork", Tricks for Free, That Ain't Witchcraft, "The Measure of a Monster", The Unkindest Tide, "Hope is Swift", Come Tumbling Down, Imaginary Numbers, "Follow the Lady", "The Fixed Stars", "Forbid the Sea", "No Sooner Met", Across the Green Grass Fields

Fourth in the InCryptid urban fantasy series and revolving around the Price-Healy family of cryptozoologists. The couple focus is on Alex Price and Shelby Tanner. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the InCryptid books on my website.

My Take

Oh, yuck. McGuire has done a twist on werewolves that will make you gag. They can turn any mammal that’s big enough to handle the change. Try imagining a horse / wolf combo! Almost worse are the sheep werewolves, lol.

McGuire does a nice bit of summing up as to Alex’s activities over the past year. Busy boy. He must be taking his dad’s advice:

“The trick to doing things people say are impossible is confidence. As long as you seem to know what you’re doing, and never hesitate, you’re very unlikely to face any challenges. People don’t like to break illusions, even when they don’t know that’s what they’re looking at.”

At last! The real reason why so many homeowners’ associations insist upon houses being beige! It makes more sense than any of the other reasons, lol.

“[And] lo, the words of the Noisy Priestess did tell us You May Leave the Bag, Just Don’t Get Caught. And we have left the bag, and we have not been caught!”

And lo, another rule is created: “Thou Shalt Not Denude the Airplane’s Cheese Selection.”

God, I do adore the Aeslin mice!! They are the best part of the whole series!

“Prove that you’re better than the things life throws at you. Live.”

– Thomas Price

Geez, I hate to say it, but the Tanners have a point, a wrong one, but still a good point about the Healy-Prices being known for betraying an ally. That said, I don’t like the Tanners. Talk about super-prejudiced! And it’s an odd prejudice: they’ll protect non-human-looking cryptids, but ignore the cryptids who look human. They claim that the cryptids don’t belong in Australia. As if the Europeans sent there as convicts do!

The Tanners and the Society know that they know nothing about werewolves, that the Healy-Prices left the Covenant, that Shelby invited Alex to come to Australia because he does know about lycanthropy-w, but they still won’t believe what he says and they insist on seeing him as Covenant. If that’s true, then they can’t complain that the Price-Healys betray their allies…since the Aussies keep saying that Alex is still Covenant.

I gotta say, I thought this protesting and bitching was overdone. I’d’a thought that Shelby’s family would be intelligent people concerned about protecting Australia. I can understand Shelby’s parents being unhappy about her daughter’s choice of man, but not this bad. Then there’s Raina. What is her problem? These people are off. The. Wall.

Hooee, Alex also makes a good point about how easy it is to be tolerant when you’re the dominant species. That sentiment can certainly apply to a number of people.

Wow, it is amazing how nasty Shelby’s dad is. The way he talks, you’d think he was some kind of religious nut. The rest of the family and the Thirty-Sixers aren’t that much better. I don’t think they’ve ever considered using logic.

Basil’s way of thinking may well modify the Price-Healy mission statement. At least it will, if the Price-Healys are smart!

“The reality of her, on the other hand, was worth moving mountains for.”

It was a good ending. McGuire set it up with lots of promise for the immediate and far future.

It’s a story that proves you’ll never know everything.

The Story

Nope, Dee ain’t believin’ it. Only critters that can move can migrate. And yams are not on the list of movable critters.

But the last laugh will be on Alex, as Shelby comes to him, begging him to help her and her family tackle an outbreak of lycanthropy-w in Australia. It’s his worst nightmare. Werewolves.

“This is a terrible, horrible, incredibly foolish idea. Let’s try it and see what happens.”

– Jonathan Healy

The Characters

The Healy-Price family is…
…renowned throughout the cryptozoological world as defectors from the Covenant of St. George with a shoot-to-kill-on-sight.

Alex Price, a.k.a., the God of Scales and Silence, is a credentialed cryptozoologist, ostensibly from California and masquerading as Dr. Preston, doing research at the Columbus Zoo. Yes, he has his own colony of Aeslin mice, the pantheistic rodents who worship the Price-Healy family as gods and have raised passing on the family oral history to a religious ritual — think living black boxes. Crow is a Church Griffin — think cat with wings — and something of a familiar / pet to Alex.

His sister Verity is a cryptid social worker who does ballroom dancing for fun. Antimony is the youngest sister and still in a state of rebellion. Sarah Zellaby is a cousin by adoption and a cuckoo who almost died when she saved Verity in Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2. While in Columbus, she and Alex are living with his maternal grandparents: Angela and Martin Baker. Angela’s a cuckoo and Martin is a Revenant (think Frankenstein) who works as a coroner for the city. Cousin Artie is half-incubus. Alice is the dimension-hopping grandmother on the Price side.

Dr. Shelby Tanner is a big cat specialist from Australia. And a member of the Thirty-Sixers. LOL, she tries to make Alex feel better about meeting her family, says it’ll be like taking a trip back home to see his family. Only Alex replies that “that doesn’t make it any better. He’s met his family.” The Aeslin mice give her a name: the Unpredictable Priestess. That settles it.

The Thirty-Six Society is…

…anti-Covenant and obsessed with protecting their own island ecosystem. Those Thirty-Sixers who have been infected include Trevor McConnell, Isaac Wall, and Pamela and Jeffrey Cornish.

The Tanner family…
…worries Alex as “he breathed” might be a good enough reason for the Tanners to kill him. Raina (she has an obsession with Pokémon games) and Gabby (she’s fixated on a career in opera) are Shelby’s sisters; Jack is the brother who died. Riley and Charlotte are her very suspicious and incredibly antagonistic parents. Flora is a garrinna, Shelby’s familiar.

Cooper is head of security and a vet tech. Jett is Cooper’s dog. Angelo Magdael will act as Alex’s jailer. Patrick Hester is not trusted due to his drop bear dealings. Chloe Bryant likes stirring up trouble, Mick is the idiot, Trigby, Blithe, Donny, Albert, and Deb are more of the Society.

Dr. Helen Jalali is a wadjet and Kumari’s cousin. She also has three university degrees. Basil is a yowie, a swamp monster, who’s annoyed about his Tim Tams and Dr. Who Magazine.

Columbus, Ohio

The West Columbus Zoo
Dee is a Pliny’s gorgon and Alex’s assistant at the zoo, happily married to Frank, the doctor of the local gorgon community. Kim and Nelson are the junior zookeepers in the reptile house. Crunchy is the big alligator snapping turtle who has come in handy in the past when Alex needs to get rid of a body or two.

Cryptids in Columbus include…
Dr. Kumari Sarpa is a wadjet who can appear human and works as a pediatrician. Chandi is her daughter trying to bond with her zoo-bound fiancé, Shami.

The werewolf incident outside Vancouver, Canada, 7 years ago
Kevin (he’s a chronicler and general historian, a.k.a., the God of Decisions Made in Necessity) and Evelyn Baker (she’s a cryptid health professional known as the Thoughtful Priestess) Price, Alex’s parents, and his Aunt Jane Price-Harrington were leading the hunt. Elsie is Alex’s cousin. Alex is hoping Aunt Mary will show.

The Covenant of St. George is a secret “organization of scholars, warriors, and assholes, dedicated to eradicating the world’s ‘monster’ population”. Exterminators with no sense of humanity, although they are responsible for werewolves coming into existence. Dickheads. Seems Grandpa Thomas Price was sent by the Covenant to take out the Healys, but became enamored of Grandma Alice‘s rack.

Cuckoos, a.k.a., Johrlac, are math-obsessed telepathic predators with no compassion. Wulver are therianthropes who are perfectly nice, um, people and beasts. The bite of a wagyl can cure anything.

The Cover and Title

The cover is dorky. Sorry, it is. It’s got a cartoon quality to it, and Alex and Shelby look like cutouts into which two people stuck their faces. It’s a tropical sort of scene with lush trees, a small body of water under and behind them with Shelby wearing an abbreviated pair of khaki shorts with a matching safari shirt, unbuttoned down to there, and a rifle in her hand. Alex is wearing a green safari vest over a purple button-down shirt with loose-fitting jeans. And werewolves are circling them.

The title is an Australian problem, a Pocket Apocalypse that threatens the entire continent. Good thing it’s an island.

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