Saturday, November 20, 2021

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe
by A. Lee Martinez
Recommended Ages: 13+

Connie has grown used to saving the world from megalomaniacs, mad scientists, rampaging cryptids and alien invaders. She's been doing it since childhood, and she's come to terms with the fact that the mantle of Caretaker has fallen to her. It puts her at the right place at the right time, and she has developed the skills to cope with pretty much anything. Then comes the day when assassins from every corner of reality start targeting her, all regretful to inform her that the sacred entrails, or probabilistic equations, or whatever, have determined that she is destined to destroy the universe. Staying ahead of multiple attempts on her life is hard enough. Balancing work with a chance to start a family with her long-suffering boyfriend, Byron, is even tougher.

And now it seems there may really be something to all this buzz about the universe coming to an end, what with an ancient artifact that hastens entropy (i.e. the heat death of the universe) out in the open again for the first time since forever. Once it's in play, Connie is on a non-stop race either to destroy everything or save it, while her friends and loved ones only make things harder for her despite their helpful intentions. These characters, by the way, include the world's greatest ninja, a kleptomaniac wonder dog, a childhood friend who has the ultimate passive-aggressive mother, a retired goddess, a shape-shifting alien, a mostly reformed mad scientist and his artificially intelligent robot wife, a supervillain lair designer and her genius partner, and several more characters who, I take it, were featured in previous books but only make cameos here.

I was constantly engaged by this book's nonstop parade of cracked fantasy-adventure sequences, gags and scenes from the life of a career Snurkab (a title that's much more impressive than it sounds). Whatever it is, no matter how far out, no matter how ridiculous, Connie really does seem to be cut out to handle it. And handle it she does, with a remarkable sensitivity and sympathy toward even the most mustache-twirling of villains. She takes attempts on her life in stride, with no hard feelings, and makes friends with her enemies in a really charming way. If anything, this book throws too much at her, and at us, bubbling over with mini-adventures almost to the point of undercutting the coherence of the plot. But it also offers many all-too-rare opportunities to laugh out loud, after which you'll surely forgive it that and much more.

This review is based on an uncorrected, pre-publication proof that I received in a Goodreads giveaway. The book, due to go on sale in March 2022, is the third in a series that also includes The Last Adventure of Constance Verity and Constance Verity Saves the World – both of which I ordered online after this book fell into my lap. I haven't read them yet, but I'm already a big fan of Martinez, a Texas-based author of hilarious horror and speculative fiction. His other novels, most of which I have read and would heartily recommend, include Gil's All Fright Diner, In the Company of Ogres, A Nameless Witch, The Automatic Detective, Too Many Curses, Monster, Divine Misfortune, Chasing the Moon, Emperor Mollusk vs. the Sinister Brain and Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest. There's also a collection of his shorter fiction titled Robots vs. Slime Monsters.

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