Blood & Circuses (The Administration, #8)Blood & Circuses by Manna Francis
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

fulfilling book riot’s read harder challenge 2018 task #20: a book with a cover you hate

extra points given to me, by me, for choosing a book that i have owned for more than a year. extra-extra points for having posting an excited “look, i got this book!” photo-“review” in 2015 and STILL not reading it until now.

yes, i give myself points for sucking. LGM. and the characters in this series.


i feel good and bad about choosing this book for this particular challenge. good because it made me finally pick up a book i’ve been looking forward to reading for ages, and bad because it feels mean. i love manna francis, but her covers are always so unappealing and sludgy, which makes them difficult to hand-sell, especially since Mind Fuck is a rather provocatively-titled book to hand to a stranger, no matter how much fun the series (usually) is.

however, this 289-page book took me eight days to read. usually, i tumble into her books with ease and a sense of coming home to beloved characters, but this was not my favorite of the series, plus it’s been difficult for me to concentrate lately because of things and stuff, so two strikes were keeping this book at arm’s length from my heart. still, it’s an easy three and a half, and there were some high points.

i’m not going to summarize the seven previous books, so if you’re not into the series, whatever happens next in this review might be confusing, but hopefully also intriguing.

Innocent Blood

this is the first novella in the book, and it sends toreth across the pond from new london to america in order to investigate a delicate matter; doctor rebekah campion is working out of the european administration’s embassy in america, when she is accused of assisting a senator’s daughter with the termination of her pregnancy. this is considered to be murder in francis’ ultra-fundamental vision of future america, but not even slightly criminal in europe. something happened during the procedure that caused the woman to go into a coma, so she’s not able to explain the circumstances or exonerate doctor campion, who swears she had nothing to do with the woman’s predicament, and despite her diplomatic immunity, she might be facing some serious consequences if found guilty. and so, our favorite complicated hero val toreth reluctantly teams up with a socioanalyst with the memorably inappropriate name of Darcy Grimm to get to the bottom of it, coming up against the obstacles of a less-than-helpful police force, limited resources and methods of interrogation because of pesky american laws, plus the culture shock of a whole new set of social cues, political pressures, and a family with many secrets.

first things first—is toreth really the one you want handling your delicate…business? unless you’re warrick? second things secondthere are some really wonderful moments here that help round out the world beyond what we’ve seen thus far in the series. america is a very rigid and repressed land that is much less kind to its women and homosexuals than new london, but much kinder to its criminals. and its suspected criminals. it’s interesting to see the world through his eyes, as he tiptoes through the minefield of do’s and don’ts, trying not to cause an international incident between two great nations already a little wary of each other. againhas toreth ever been the best tiptoer? and yet he does, he tiptoes like a pro, and it’s a little confusing, because he’s not naughty either sexually OR professionally, so it’s like some alt-world, well-behaved toreth that’s been in a vault somewhere all this time.

plus, for nearly the entire duration of this 130-plus page story, he and warrick are in different countries and what’s fun about that? i’ve said a million times that sexxytimes in books don’t do anything for me, but i’ve loved watching this relationship evolve over the course of the series, and the absence of this dynamic was deeply disappointing. considering there were 4 years in between the publication of book 7 and book 8, it feels doubly cruel and withholding to keep them apart after not giving fans anything new for so long.

even though this novella is the one that took me the longest to get into and get through, in retrospect, it’s a tidy little mystery with some important culture shock moments and some fun exchanges between toreth and agent ruiz, who returns here to the series, which mostly involve the perception of “deviant behavior.” I&I, and especially toreth, doesn’t often get involved with what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms, but things are different in america, where ruiz helpfully explains,

”Well, you can get a long way if you keep in mind that the Founding Fathers Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed this is a Christian country, established on Christian principles, and that’s how our laws are framed.”

Unfortunate that Toreth’s knowledge of Christianity was more or less limited to expressing feelings like, “Jesus fucking Christ, this case is a pain in the arse.”

i didn’t say he was a saint, just a tiptoer. and the toreth/grimm antler-locking is equally entertaining; confrontational, begrudging, occasionally collegiate, but peppered throughout with toreth’s helpful professional observations.

”Do you know the basic principle of coercive interrogation?” Toreth asked.

“Hurting people?” Grimm suggested.

Toreth laughed. “No, that’s just an option. Interrogation is about changing priorities. Making people value the things that you control. When someone will swap the information you want for five minutes’ rest, or a sip of water, then you win.”

this one is pretty much just an investigation. eventually, there are blowies, but they’re like the end-credit scenes of a marvel movie. in that you gotta wait for them. they in no way involve stan lee.

Weekend Plans

this one is the best of the bunch, but it’s only thirty pages long! boooo! i’m in the minority of really liking sara, so i’m happy she gets a chunk of the story. there’s also a furthering of the continuing story arc involving the resisters and the revolution and warrick’s family involvement. and on top of all that is a third storyline showcasing the very best of warrick and toreth. it’s funny and winky and playful and then very serious indeed. and she does all of this in only thirty pages! it was outstanding.

i love warrick, and i missed him so much in that first story:

Better to be early then late, but early was still an annoying scheduling inefficiency.

i swoon.

Constellation of Falling Stars

this third part is just an under-ten-page teaser-intro to the second novella in the book, For Your Entertainment, in which there is zero warrick and barely any toreth and the whole thing is helmed by barret-friggin’-connor, because WHY? seriously, the biggest problem with this book is how little warrick is in it. who requested that we see more barret-connor? not one person. the story itself is fine, it’s another investigation that widens the scope of the series, focused here on the entertainment industry and its chilling commodification of the boy band, in which young boys are raised up like tender veal-calves and given many surgeries to keep them young and profitable and it is a very ghoulish business model indeed.

”Investigator, 343 is an enormously profitable brand. We have lifestyle strategies in place for all our product, and that includes their closedown. Ideally, we shift fanbase to another product within our stable, at least until they move out of our demographic. 343 had good long-term projections, but even another year or two would let us complete their cycle in a controlled way, with better fan retention.”

the story itself is good, but in a volume with very little of what has been the draw of the series, i wouldn’t have minded one more thirty-pager to close out the book.

and if the internet would see fit to GIF me a photo of julian sands making out with hugo weaving, i would insert it here.

DANA!!!! DANA!!!! DANA!!!!! LOOK!!! LOOK!!!! LOOK!!!!

 photo IMG_5816_zpsujw5xxzk.jpg

now i can finally read book seven without fear of being left with nothing to look forward to!!!

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