Don’t expect Brian McClellan’s first foray into urban fantasy to blaze any new trails. This is all ground well-trod by Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, and Richard Kadrey. Which isn’t to say that Uncanny Collateral isn’t more than welcome. But we are talking about works that are a certain type of comfort reads—successors in some ways to the old pulps—because they guarantee an entertaining, rollicking read. McClellan has tweaks of his own—and they are good ones—but mainly he absolutely sticks the execution. At just 165 pages (again, with the pulp similarities), it fits nicely into a busy schedule too.
Alek Fitz is a debt collector. A very special kind of debt collector. A debt collector with troll blood and magic tattoos on each fist that make him very dangerous in a fistfight. A debt collector who shows up to make sure you uphold your end of the bargain if you sell your soul and attempt to welch. A debt collector who is a very literal slave, rather than employee, to his boss.
Alek is also the best his agency has got, so he gets the call when Death has a very sensitive, very urgent, and very important job for the agency. Hundreds of souls have gone missing, and that just isn’t supposed to happen.
From there things proceed about as you would expect—all in all, neither a bug nor a feature—but I like the setup plenty. Another highlight is Maggie and her interaction with Alek. Maggie is a genie trapped in a ring stuck on Alek’s finger. Her magic adds considerably to Alek’s capabilities as a supernatural debt collector. Her banter with Alek adds considerably to our enjoyment.
The overall story and worldbuilding was a little too pedestrian to get Uncanny Collateral from four stars to five, but my interest in the sequel was further piqued by hints that both Alek’s and Maggie’s backstories will start to have a very present relevance to each.
4 of 5 Stars.