BOOK REVIEW: FIX by Ferrett Steinmetz

written by David Steffen

FIX is the third book in the ‘Mancy series by Ferrett Steinmetz.  Before I go any further, if you haven’t read the previous two books, FLEX and THE FLUX, I would recommend stopping now and consider reading the earlier books (I reviewed them here and here respectively).  There’s been enough backstory and worldbuilding in the first two books that I think starting with the 3rd book might not be the best way to read the series, and it will spoil a bunch of the major plot moments in the first books as well.

The world of the series involves private, individual magic systems based on obsessions.  If someone believes something strongly enough, the universe will change to accomodate those beliefs.  But there’s a catch–every change to the natural world comes with a rebound of equal magnitude that comes in the form of bad luck, the flux.  Small change, maybe your flux will make you stub your toe.  Big change, maybe someone you or someone you love will die in a freak accident.  Because of the unpredictable and dangerous nature of both the ‘mancy and the flux blowback, ‘mancy is illegal everywhere in the world, enforced by government controlled SMASH teams, using teams of brainwashed hivemind ‘mancers.

At the end of THE FLUX, the bureaucromancer Paul Tsabo and his family started an underground pro-mancy advocacy group.  Along with him are his friend who had trained him in ‘mancy, the videogamemancer Valentine DiGriz, his daughter Aliyah who is also a videogamemancer, his wife Imani a former corporate lawyer who handles much of the planning, and Robert Paulson (Valentine’s boyfriend and former Fight-Club-‘mancer).

Because ‘mancy is illegal, they are constantly on the run, holding secret rallies while dodging SMASH raids.  Eight years have passed since the last book, and Aliyah is 16 years old and would be in high school if she weren’t a known ‘mancer on the run.  As the book starts, Aliyah’s family is trying to carve out a bit of normalcy for her in the world, letting her join a soccer team in a small town in Kentucky.  But what starts out as a pleasant if nervous day quickly goes south and they find themselves on the run again.

This book does get quite a bit darker than the previous two.  The stakes are higher and the dark moments are darker.  It all makes sense as an escalation of the series, since the last book had ended with the group of characters secretly having ‘mancy powers to being actively hunted by SMASH.  But the stakes are raised in other ways that I don’t want to get too much into here because there are a lot of surprised in the plot.

As with the previous books, one of the big appeals for me is the videogamemancy–Valentine DiGriz is of an age where she grew up on many of the video games that I grew up on, and in these books she uses them very effectively for magic (most often offensive magic).  But Paul’s bureaucromancy has an appeal of its own–subtle and whisper-quiet where Valentine’s is loud and flashy and explosive.  And you never know what kind of ‘mancer you’re going to meet next, since each completely defines their own magic system with the only common element being the flux.

I love all three of these books.  I cannot recommend them enough.  This one is even more epic and heartbreaking and wonderful and amazing than the others.  Ferrett is one of the few authors that I’ll just buy anything they write sight unseen without any blurb or recommendation because he’s just that damned good, and this book is no exception.