Given the way this year has been going, it seemed only fitting to (finally, belatedly) start my Year Of Sanderson with the last book released as part of his gargantuan Kickstarter. And let’s be honest, I likely won’t finish reading the other four books he sent out by the end of the calendar year. Fortunately, it’s pretty much always the Year Of Sanderson in my reading heart.
I also desperately needed a break from the psychological thrillers that have made up the vast majority of my work reading recently. This novelette was the perfect length to give me a tiny respite, especially since I stayed up late to devour Britney Spears’ memoir too last night — a full review of which will be forthcoming after Christmas. I did actually pause when I realized this story was also a mystery, tho, granted, in the hardboiled PI genre. But since my beloved Wax And Wayne series of this author’s is technically a Western, I figured I’d still be in for a transporting sci-fi treat.
And boy howdy was I.
Jack Derrins is a self-made anachronism. While the rest of the world is living firmly in the year 2151, Jack chooses to exist as if it’s still two hundred years earlier, running a private investigation agency and pining for the bad old days. His new secretary Alici is uninterested in his standing instructions for her to look pretty and stay helpless; truly it is a shock how he can never seem to keep an assistant for any significant length of time.
When his agency catches a case that’s been all over the headlines, Alici warns him against getting involved. But something about the femme fatale appeal of their new client pushes him to do the exact opposite, putting Jack and Alici both in significant peril as he strives to uncover the truth.
I’m really glad Brandon Sanderson opened this “curiosity”, as he terms it, with an introduction as to its genesis and his motivations writing it. What struck me most was the idea that some guy in the future would have an unrealistically idealized vision of the problematic past, the way some people today do with European chivalry or even more recent eras. Mr Sanderson keeps Jack’s casual misogyny front and center, as a stark reminder that the past really wasn’t that great unless you were a relatively well-off dude. And for all that Jack gripes about how down-and-out he allegedly is, Long Chills And Case Dough skewers his self-delusions relentlessly.
But Jack isn’t a complete loser. He retreats to this idealized past for a reason, in much the same way that disappointed people of all ages resort to fantasy worlds in order to better cope with their every day existence. I felt for Jack, and love how Mr Sanderson presents him as a complex person who is genuinely trying his best, even if he really could use a refresher on how to treat women like fellow human beings.
The mystery at the heart of the book is a nice little bit of time slippage, as Mr Sanderson masterfully masks current technology with future innovations (I hope that’s not a spoiler!) This novelette is a worthwhile read for any fan of cross-genre hijinks. I know that a bunch of fellow Sanderson fans were less than thrilled with this effort, but I quite enjoyed it for the quick-reading curiosity that it’s meant to be.
Long Chills And Case Dough by Brandon Sanderson was published December 1 2023 by Dragonsteel Books and is available from their website.