Tor Romance, $6.99, ISBN 0-765-35422-5
Fantasy Romance, 2006
Retrieval is one of the few urban fantasy stories I’ve come across where I can tell immediately that all the main characters are either Republicans or whatever the UK equivalent is called. The plot is something Michael Moore would come up with should his speaking fees and movie-making career dry up and he is forced to write romantic urban fantasy, only, Jeanie London isn’t making fun of the conservatives in this story.
You see, our hero Roman Barrymore is the White House officer in charge of the department where they keep track of internal and external matters in order to nab the terrorists and such. When he is assassinated at the start of the story, he realizes that he is entrusted with a new mission by an angel: he will start an A-Team of sorts to help the forces of good win the battle against the forces of evil! He can still use the computers and all in his Terrorists-will-Die batcave (as he is a ghost, it’s not as if the humans in the batcave can see him) to that end, so folks, I hope you’re pleased that these people will still keep track of your doings and porn habit long after these people are dead.
Apparently all the terrorists and scum bags in this world are possessed or controlled by demons. Fortunately, this is a secular novel or some readers may get very offended by the premise. At any rate, Roman has soon assembled a team of ghosts for his new Soul Retrieval Unit but he is missing a “secret weapon”. No, we are not talking about a killer slogan like “Do we look like a recycling plant to you? Is it the name?” but the ghost of Nina de Lacy. Nina retains her ability that she had in life – she can “see” the soul of people as well as the presence of demons. In other words, she will look at a rabid villain running at you with a machete and tell you that the man is clearly evil, probably possessed by the Demon of Hatred. Because Nina’s ability makes her a valuable asset, some demon has “crowded” her into the body of Kathleen McGuire. What happens here is that Nina’s soul inhabits Kathleen’s body but neither Kathleen nor Nina realize this. Roman and his A-Team will have to find a way to retrieve Nina’s soul.
The problem with Retrieval is that it is a very slow story. You may be led by the cover to imagine that there is plenty of action here, but no, these people spend their time talking more than anything else. Reading this story is like following a bunch of political advisers planning an election campaign. I find the whole thing as dry as dust. Contributing to the tedium is how Roman and Nina collect admirers like nobody’s business. Every guy loves Nina, it seems. She had a ménage à trois arrangement with two guys when she was alive and these two guys remain devoted to her in the afterlife even as Roman is also falling under her spell because the very air she breathes out compels men to adore her, it seems. As for Roman, he is the perfect Republican politician and activist with no flaws, although sometimes I wonder whether Ms London is trying too hard to drive home the splendor of Roman. For example, Roman arranges for the cops to arrive at a scene of trouble and Nina would gush at how brilliant Roman is for thinking of… doing the obvious. Meanwhile, the villains are liberal tree-hugging folks who run around helping the poor and disenfranchised while secretly plotting with demons to take over the world.
There are some fun to be had from laughing at some of the more unintentionally humorous propagandist aspects of Retrieval – such as how, even when the fate of existence is threatened, of all the billions of dead souls floating around, it is up to the American and British souls to save everyone and everything – but on the whole, the really sluggish pace and the tediously perfect characters all come together to create a really boring read. I have a better time looking at the cover and wondering who that woman on the cover is supposed to represent. Not any of the females in this story, that’s for sure.