In his review of Two Serpents Rise, John said he didn’t know what genre Max Gladstone’s CRAFT stories fit into. I agree, so I’m going to coin my own term here: officepunk. The heroes of both novels so far have been employees of big corporations. There’s lots of typical office imagery — pinstripe suits, desks, clipboards, business meetings and contracts — but there’s also zombie armies, flying insect taxis, poker games as acts of worship, soul money, demonic parasites, and enslaved gods.
Gladstone’s world is such a strange blend of the familiar and exotic that I had trouble settling into it in his first CRAFT novel, Three Days Dead. I never knew what to expect, which made anything seem possible, so it felt like there were no “rules” and some of the major events seemed slightly arbitrary. This second CRAFT book, Two Serpents Rise stands alone but is set in the same world, so it felt a little more comfortable than the previous story.
Caleb, our protagonist, is a businessman who works as a risk manager for a company that supplies his desert city’s water. When he discovers that demons infest the water supply and that some angry ancient gods may soon be unleashed on the city, he has to find some way to save it. A pretty athlete may be a witness, but if Caleb wants to learn what she knows, he has to catch her first.
As John mentioned, a major theme of this novel is sacrifice. What would a good person be willing to sacrifice for others? When is it okay for a few people to be sacrificed for the greater good? What is our duty to our fellow humans? Do small sacrifices of our moral beliefs put us on a slippery ethical slope?
I read Two Serpents Rise on audio which was produced in 2013 by Blackstone Audio and read by Chris Andrew Ciulla. The title is 12.5 hours long. Ciulla did a great job with the narration — he’s got a pleasant voice and a nice cadence. I liked this narrator better than the narrator for Three Parts Dead and I’d recommend it.
I’m not sure what’s coming next in Gladstone’s CRAFT series. Book three, which releases next summer (and has a really awesome cover), is called Full Fathom Five. If we add the “Three” and the “Two” from the titles of the first two novels, we get “Five.” This makes me think that perhaps Caleb will team up with Tara, the protagonist of the first novel and they’ll work together on the project Caleb proposes at the end of Two Serpents Rise. I’d like to see that.