The Usual Apocalypse

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Isn’t that how Peter Parker’s uncle said it? Then there’s the flip side, “Who watches the watchers?” In other words, who makes sure that the ones who have that great power use it responsibly?

In Christine Price’s futuristic The Usual Apocalypse, the great powers involved are of the paranormal variety, and the ones who take responsibility just call themselves “The Society”. The Society polices those who have paranormal ability. It also finds children who have talent, and it solves crimes against the talented. It’s a combination of the police and the FBI and the CIA. It even has its own Internal Affairs division!

The story in The Usual Apocalypse is the one about all the chickens coming home to roost, and not in a good way. I mean the chickens, not the story. The story was great.

The Society went through a really, really dark patch during a time when it was run by a group that treated the talented as experimental subjects rather than people. Talent doesn’t seem to be native to the human population. Anyone with significant talent can be thought of as not human, because they are descended from someone who wasn’t. Truly.

But the housecleaning was swift, thorough and brutal — and nearly a generation ago. But Agent Matt Whitman is tying up one of the loose ends. One mad doctor tried to recreate her sick, twisted experiments. Matt shut her down, finally, but wanted to give something back to the men whose lives she nearly destroyed. Six months later, he finally got a lead on Brennan Kincaid, one victim’s younger brother.

Matt finds Brennan and brings his  brother back to him. Reuniting the two brothers should have been the close of a long and brutal case. But then, senior agents start dying, and it all ties back to the bad old days, and all the deep, dark secrets come out of the shadows. No one is able to hide, not even the super-secret head of the Society. Because someone is trying to bring the bad old days back again.

Escape Rating B: I got wrapped up in the story, and wanted to know more. The Society is interesting. It reminded me of what the Council might have been like in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series if the Psy had kept their humanity and managed to police themselves instead of going completely Darkside. The Society went over the edge and pulled themselves back. I enjoyed the way that Matt and Brennan’s relationship developed. How to get a workaholic to stop being a workaholic is all too easy to relate to.  Matt and Brennan both have paranormal talent. Brennan hears people’s thoughts. Matt can make anyone spill their secrets by asking a question. This is an incredibly cool talent for a cop. One of the neat things about futuristic stories is exploring the differences. In this author’s world, there is way more prejudice against Matt and Brennan because they have paranormal talents than because they are gay. Good romance, good mystery, neat world-building.