Lightning’s Call is what you’d get if Tolkien and Lovecraft co-wrote Gangs of New York and Ivan Reitman directed it as though it were Ghostbusters–while Reitman was channelling John Carpenter. Or F.W. Murnau.
Nah, Carpenter, definitely–except instead of the Dead Rabbits versus the Bowery Boys, the plot spins around an agitated Civil War veteran named Denis Malone and Nikola Tesla meeting for the first time while battling preternatural evil in New York’s Five Points, 1884.
LaRosa’s novella not only tells a good, fun story but also lays the groundwork for one of the more epic dynamic duos ever imagined: A battle-weary Civil War veteran teaming up with a young Nikola Tesla himself, fresh off the boat with a pack full of contraptions and on a mission from–well, if not God, certainly “goodness”…or humanity.
Making Tesla, the iconoclastic Serbian scientist, a 19th century hero doing battle with what are apparently supernatural forces wreaking havoc on Earth is interesting in and of itself. Tesla the character is both fun to follow and a well-drawn departure from–or expansion of–the usual one-dimensional Wikipedia Tesla of popular culture.
Malone also has real presence and personality. His somewhat older and more world-weary character contrasts nicely with Tesla’s more youthful adventurousness and confidence, and whereas Tesla enters the picture focused on battling actual demons, Malone starts off dealing mainly with personal ones. That changes, however, as they are slowly brought together either by chance or by something more necessary and deliberate to save a girl while destroying a house. And scaring a horse…though, strictly speaking, that’s not their fault.
As the old saying goes, “People should be free to do whatever they want, so long as they don’t do it in the street and scare the horses.” Well the evil forces in this first book of a very promising series definitely scare the horses as well as everyone else in the streets as Tesla and Malone risk their lives to stop them. Strap in for what promises to be a long and entertaining ride.