Review: They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded by James Alan Gardner

They Promised Me the Gun Wasn't Loaded

Publisher: Tor
Released: Nov. 6th 2018
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Threat/implication of mind control rape
Rating: 4 kitties

I received a copy of They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded is a sequel to All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault. However, I never read the first book before I started in on this one, and I had absolutely no trouble following along with what happened. Sure, I likely missed some context, inside jokes, and things like that. But that’s okay, I still enjoyed They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded. From my understanding they followed different characters between the two books anyway, so a new perspective is sometimes all you need to bring in a new fan, right?

This is a science fiction novel in its truest form, but it’s also light and chaotic most of the time. It makes for a really quirky and enjoyable read. Especially if you’re looking for a bit of escape from reality. It’s a fast paced plot, with so many twists and turns that I found myself surprised by the setting near the end of the book. I love surprises like that.

Spoiler Warning

Warnings first: I mentioned above that most of the book is pretty light, so having the main character get threatened with mind controlled rape is kind of out of left field. Nothing ends up happening (thankfully) but a.) it was pretty upsetting regardless and b.) there’s a clear indication that this is not the first time this particular character has taken advantage of his abilities (or that the character supporting him helped arrange it). It’s upsetting and disturbing on so many levels, and I think it’s made worse by the fact that nothing else in the book was even remotely that heavy.

I really enjoyed reading They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded. Despite how long the title itself is, reading the book didn’t feel nearly so long winded. It’s fast paced, action packed, and has a ton of quirks thrown in for good measure.

I mentioned above that I never read the first book. I feel bad about that, but I honestly wasn’t aware that there was a first one when I originally grabbed this to read. I saw the cover and title and was intrigued. And when a series doesn’t number itself…well sometimes I can be easily confused, okay? Despite all of that, I really didn’t have any trouble following along with what was happening. The author did a great job of recapping past events – maybe this would have been too detailed had I read the first, but it was enough to let me understand how the system worked, how the characters knew each other, and so on.

The ability set in this series is actually really interesting. It’s kind of superhero-esque, but it’s so different at the same time. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was a refreshing take. Additionally the way the abilities were handled just made the series feel lighter and more jubilant on the whole. Sparks granting power, which includes the ability to immediately hide your identity, from even your best friends, behind a flimsy mask? Sounds like whimsical magic if ever I’ve heard it. But that made it charming.

Jools is a fascinating character. She’s totally all over the place. She’s physically perfect at everything – literally. She’s the best human at anything she tries – as long as it doesn’t require her to go past human limits, of course. She’s also a bit of an evil genius scientist, which is all sorts of amazing. Her character took some getting used to, but by the end of the book I was shocked by how protective I felt about her character.

The plot was interesting on the whole. It was sort of a blend between the MacGuffin trope and hot potato. This naturally led to a ton of interesting fight scenes as well as plenty of funny moments. The pace moved along at a breathtaking pace, but it fit in well with Jools’ personality.

My one complaint would have to be something that happened later in the book. I mentioned it in my warning above. One of the characters, a grayscale character, puts Jools in a situation where she’s about to get mind control raped. By that I mean there’s another character with the ability to make her want to be with him…even if she doesn’t actually want to. The grayscale character promises she’ll ‘want it at the time’ and ‘erase her memory’ afterward. It’s horrifying. Nothing actually happens, thank goodness. But it was so disturbing. What’s worse is that it’s clear that this duo has been doing this to countless other women. I think I would have been more okay with it had Jools taken her opportunity to speak out about it and well…tell the world about it. Instead she covers for them, making them look like the good people. Which in essence allows them to continue doing what they’re doing. I’m disappointed with Jools’ lack of forethought with that one.

I’ll be curious to see if there’s going to be another book in this series. I think it has the potential to keep going to quite a while. Especially since they haven’t caught Diamond, who sounds like he’s their biggest adversary (even if we never actually saw him here). In the meantime I suppose I could go back and read the first book…


About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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