9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (2007)

9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (2007)9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Published: Night Shade Books (2007), Paperback, 280pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-fi, Urban Fantasy

Sergeant Bobby Zha of the SFPD is desperate to find out who murdered him. But he also needs the answers to some other questions. Like, why is he in another man’s body? Why is someone trying to kill him, again… And why is he being haunted by a nine-tailed Celestial fox? From the shell-shattered ruins of Stalingrad in 1942 to the present-day politics of San Francisco’s Chinatown, 9Tail Fox is evocative of place and crystal-clear in its depiction of character. (from Amazon)

I spotted 9Tail Fox a few months ago on Night Shade’s website and wanted to read it ever since (mostly because of the cover). I found it on Amazon for a pittance, read it, and was disappointed. It’s not a terrible book, but I didn’t really enjoy reading it, either.

The things I liked were mostly in the writing and in the little parts of the story that didn’t involve Sergeant Zha. I liked how there weren’t any giant infodumps hurled at me; instead, small bits of information were scattered around like breadcrumbs. I had to follow them to arrive at a complete picture, and it was kind of fun. As long as I don’t have to work too hard to understand a character, I don’t mind doing a bit of piecing together. Sometimes it’s nice learning about people one chapter at a time, instead of having it all crammed together in one or two paragraphs.

The supernatural elements were pretty sparse– this isn’t so much an urban fantasy mystery as a mystery with paranormal elements vaguely touching the edges of it. And it’s not even so much a mystery as it is a story about a policeman who messed up everything in his life, including his death. (It’s got so many layers in it I’m surprised it hasn’t been used in one of my English classes. Aha.)

I think my biggest difficulty with this book was that I didn’t like Sergeant Zha. In fact, I hated him most of the time. I think I was supposed to dislike him, though, since multiple times throughout the book characters said he was a bastard and a scoundrel, which is a pretty big clue that, y’know, he isn’t a good guy. Plus he doesn’t really do anything to contradict that until maybe the very end of the story.

It’s a very hard thing to do, reading a book where the protagonist isn’t meant to be liked. I’ve had better luck with that sort of thing before, but for some reason it didn’t work for me here. I liked some of the other characters, like the ex-military homeless people who help Sergeant Zha out, but overall the book isn’t filled with people I care about (or want to read about).

9Tail Fox is an interesting book with a good plot, and though I didn’t enjoy all of it, it wasn’t horrible at all. It just wasn’t my thing.

Read: July 2009

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