They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded

By James Alan Gardner

Rating: 4 stars

I loved All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault and timed it such that I finished it just as the sequel was released. This book focuses on Jools, another of the four housemates who get caught in a lab explosion and gained superpowers. She’s the jock of the group, and the one who’s struggling most with her studies. This combination ends her up with immediate knowledge of anything that’s part of the corpus of public knowledge and Olympic-level mastery of any human skill.

Despite these skills, Gardner paints a skilful picture of a young woman who’s good at giving the appearance of confidence and having it together but who is actually a bit of a wreck and is now struggling with a degree of inferiority compared to her superpowered teammates. Oh, and she’s also afraid that she’s turning into a Mad Genius who will stop caring about the devastation that her potential inventions could wreak. And that she’s got a drink problem.

The Darkling siblings Nick and Elaine return in this book, albeit more for an extended cameo than anything else. The blood bond between Elaine and Kim (now just K, having moved further toward the non-binary part of the spectrum) is used to drive the plot forward, and there is, of course, the eponymous gun. Believed to be created by Mad Genius Diamond from the first book, it’s very much the definition of a macguffin.

The Spark world is expanded as well. In addition to Grandfather and Invie, this book introduces us to the Aussie All-Stars and Robin Hood and his gang of Merry Men, a group of outlaw Sparks who rob the rich (Darklings) and (allegedly) give to the poor. Jools gets caught up with them and struggles to keep herself right.

The whole potential mind rape thing is rather disturbing, even if nothing happens to Jools. The idea that not only does Robin do this to other women, but that it’s facilitated by Marion is icky. Those were the most intense chapters of the book for me, when Jools is beset all round and separated from her teammates, having to rely entirely on her own resources (which are more than she gives herself credit for). I almost punched the air when Zircon finally turned up.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and a quick tweet to the author assures me that he’s already at work on the next one (Miranda’s book). This one is perhaps slightly not as good as its predecessor, but it’s still a highly enjoyable read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780765398789
Publisher: Tor Books
Year of publication: 2018

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