Friday, January 27, 2012

Book review: Sunset: Pact Arcanum by Arshad Ahsanuddin & Craig Payst, illustrator

Sunset: Pact Arcanum: Book OneSunset: Pact Arcanum: Book One by Arshad Ahsanuddin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wowsas! I didn't see this one coming. I read about Sunset:PA in a Goodreads forum, where it was described as a "gay vampire romance." Well, this book is that, but so much more! Sure, there are vampires, and there is gay romance (very understated, though), but it's also a sci-fi/cyberpunkish/sword and sorcery hybrid, too. There's an epic battle between good and evil-- except the good guys frequently err on the side of not-so-good and the bad guys often find a measure of redemption. Sunset is action-packed and violent, but also has a really tender side, too. It has all the elements I like in the books I read for pure enjoyment.

Nick Jameson, a popular musician,  unexpectedly drops in to save Los Angeles from a nuclear threat, perpetrated by terrorists during a widely televised public event.  In doing so, Nick reveals the existence of metahumans-- vampires (Day- and Night-Walkers), Sentinels (magic users, represented by Four Winds: Earth, Water, Fire and Air), the Armistice,  which consists of the Triumvirate (a council of leaders that govern the assembly of Free People), Armistice Security and The Hidden Cities where all these metahumans tend to congregate. The terrorist incident is just the beginning of the political intrigue as different factions are vying for power and continued existence-- especially now that the cat is out of the bag and humans (rightly so) feel threatened by all these supernatural beings.

Ok, I'm not one for summary and this story is so complex, I'd completely make a mess of it, anyway. Let me move on to a few important points. Sunset's worldbuilding is amazing. It is very detailed-- this is a speculative fiction dream, where we see a highly technologized  world, a couple of decades from our present time. There is teleportation and extensive space travel, and it is the age of  intelligent machines that have moved beyond early 21st century human-computer interactions to realizing their own agency (which may or may not have much use for humans). Yeah, yeah, we've had this before in other books, but somehow Ahsanuddin makes it all fresh.  There is much here to keep geeks and gamers enthralled (some of the descriptions remind me of the setups of role-playing games, and the art throughout the book is reminiscent of RPGs and comics). If technogeek isn't your first language, you may be a little lost in the beginning, but I feel it's worth hanging in there, as Ahsanuddin has created a highly imaginative, but accessible, world (repeatedly referring to the introduction, which gives a run-down of factions and players, helps immensely).

There are a lot of characters in this world, which isn't surprising, considering the number of factions involved. Nick is always central to the action-- as he becomes more than a musician, but a leader within the Armistice. And frankly, almost all the romance in the book is tied to Nick in one way or another-- I began to think of Sunset as "Everybody Loves Nick." Oh, did I mention that Nick is gay? This is not only a vampire romance, but a mostly-gay vampire romance (there are hetereos in the story-- apparently in the future all kinds of love can coexist!). Even as flawed a hero as he is, Nick practically has a harem of admirers-- and he even has his own unrequited love obsession. You might need a scorecard to keep up with who wants to zoom whom, but after awhile you get it. One thing I really like about Sunset is the various flavors of love-- brotherly, unrequited, unconditional, more-lust-than-love, happy-for-now-love, eternal love. All that love motivates most  of the main characters, in one way or another,  and the reader can't help but feel all wrapped up in it, too. You begin to root for different combinations of lovers (at times, the possibilities seemed limitless) and you can't help but empathize with the broken-hearted. The actual boot-knocking takes place off-screen, so if sexy, gay warriors getting it on makes you queasy, you shouldn't feel too uncomfortable, because it never gets graphic.

Reading Sunset: Pact Arcanum will take some effort on the reader's part, but I feel there's a very satisfying dividend. Arshad Ahsanuddin  is an amazingly gifted writer, which I find surprising because he is a physician in his day job (I love the idea of hematopathologist writing a vampire tale!). I am thrilled that the story continues in several more books and novellas, because there is much more to learn about the Pact Arcanum world. I highly recommend this book

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  1. Wow! Stunning review. Thanks for your support!


  2. Yay!! Love to find new people who love this wonderful series!!! Grab all the rest of the Pact Arcanum and have a wonderful weekend of reading!! (well, if you read as fast as I do ... LOL)

    1. Ah, Katy, I'm well on the way to being Arshad's biggest fan because I've already finished Moonlight and The Best of Times, and I'm currently reading Sunrise. I have been reading Pact Arcanum practically non-stop for the past couple of days.


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