Book Review: UNION STATION by Ian Welke

UNION STATION by Ian Welke is a modern fantasy novel set in Los Angeles and published by a cool, boutique publisher, Omnium Gatherum.

The story focuses on books. Its protagonist is a magician and ex-librarian with a complicated backstory, Tom Jackson, whose magical talent is to locate rare, valuable books (including a first edition Hemingway!). Tom’s made a discrete business out of this until he’s challenged to find ‘The Book of All’, a mystical tome containing text that can literally alter reality. Naturally enough, other players want this book too for nefarious purposes. To use a Hitchcockian notion, The Book of All is the MacGuffin driving the action.

At this point, UNION STATION adopts many of the attributes of a noir detective story as Tom recruits a group of talented fellow magicians to aid his search and contend with the numerous malign forces competing for it. His companions have a range skills and part of Tom’s challenge is to mobilize this heterogeneous team to find the book. What follows is a free-wheeling, inter-dimensional adventure as Tom & Co take on all manner of entities magical and otherwise in pursuit of The Book of All. Besides the chase, subplots include class struggle in the alternate realities Tom visits. This deepens the novel.   

There are numerous references to settings in and around Los Angeles including the eponymous Union Station, and the characters spend significant time moving about the greater urban area. Sometimes, readers not resident to Los Angeles could feel they need a primer on the city’s neighborhoods and highway system to fully appreciate the drama. Nonetheless, UNION STATION is a fast-paced story that should amuse many readers of modern fantasy.

Finally, let me add that fantasy readers/reviewers should be open to checking out small-press and/or independently published works in this genre. There is a wealth of creativity among authors not published by the big four, traditional book imprints.  

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