Genre: Modern/Urban Fantasy
Book Review by Richard R. Horton
John M. Ford is one of the best and subtlest writers we have, as well as having outstanding range. His previous books include spy stories, space opera, hard SF set on the Moon, and a brilliant Alternate History/Fantasy called The Dragon Waiting that won the World Fantasy Award.
The Last Hot Time is a short book set in a “Borderlands”-type universe where Elves have returned to Earth. (There is indeed a specific reference to the Terri Windling-edited Shared World series, though this book doesn’t seem to be part of the series.)
One locus of the boundary between Earth and Elfland is Chicago. Danny Holman, a young paramedic from Iowa, comes to Chicago and (somewhat luckily) gets adopted as the medical person for a relatively “good” gang in the “Levee”, the boundary area where magic works somewhat.
Doc Hallownight, as he is dubbed, falls in love, but must deal with a dark personal secret, while also learning about power and his need for control, in various facets of his life, and how that ties in with the way his new boss feels about control and power of the Levee.
The plot concerns a smallish “gangland war” against a bad gang led by a bad elf. The plot is a minor part of the joys of the book. But Doc’s personal story is very well done, and the back story about the relationship of Elfland to our world is lightly sketched but fascinating, and the writing is wonderful.
The general description of the Levee as analogous to a romanticized version of Prohibition-era Chicago works beautifully. The elves are well described and their names are striking indeed. Their characters are believable: not human, not at all, but not better or worse: just different.