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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Ventriloquist by Steven Cortinas is a speculative fiction novel that places its titular anti-hero in the midst of US President JFK's assassination, circa 1963. In this alternate history, the framed shooter on Grassy Knoll is one Lee Hussein Oswald, set up as the fall guy to facilitate a war in the Middle East. News spreads like wildfire in a multi-dimensional universe with FatePhones, iAssistants, and the Kick, and people are all connected to the Hive....until, they aren't. Meanwhile, from another dimension, Chance, the Ventriloquist, takes advantage of a Hive blackout to rescue an old friend. He's not alone. In fact, he's never alone, really, between lady lovelies and his sentient Dummy. What did you expect? He's the Ventriloquist! The book moves its timelines in reverse to provide backstory, including Oswald's history as a formerly bullied not-so-great Marine, and Chance, who didn't get enough hugs or whatever and spent years bumping folks off. Cortinas then shifts into overdrive in a cataclysmic hail of several rounds of gunfire, a lot of diner visits, and some ridiculously giant rats all wrapped up in an adventure arc to save the world.
There is no apparent downside to immersing oneself in The Ventriloquist and Steven Cortinas' Legacy Series, of which I am now a fan. There was an adjustment period with regard to Chance's phonetically written Brooklyn accent in dialogue, but it was a quick hill to climb over. For all of the action, it is the character development that makes the book as good as it is. Ramona is a favorite of mine and there was a genuine fist pump moment when she says, “This world’s a toilet, and I’m fighting for better.” The sarcasm drips from the page with the same amount of wit as Cortinas' imagination, both of which are substantial. I loved the hilarious stream of Twitter-esque commentary in the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination and the number of recognizable names of yesteryear with their moniker handles is fantastic. As I said before, I am a new fan and this book is my first foray into the impressive Legacy Universe, but if the rest of the books are as good as this one, I may never need a Marvel or DC Comic character again. Very highly recommended.