Backlist Burndown Review: Last Call by Tim Powers

Backlist Burndown Review: Last Call by Tim PowersLast Call by Tim Powers
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
on April 1st 1992
Pages: 479
Length: 19 hours 37 minutes

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Set in Las Vegas, Last Call concerns the fate of Scott Crane, former professional gambler, recent widower, blind in one eye--and also the lost natural son of the man who is determined to kill him. In this novel, Crane is forced to resume the high-stakes game of a lifetime--and wager it all.

The Last Call is a unique fantasy where magic lies within cards. It is about fate and destiny as told by the cards. When you play with others, you also have the ability to control and trade your destiny in life through the game at hand. One player has even found a way to win people’s bodies for his own devices through these ‘games’. Pretty much, the cards are much larger than anything you would think of as a game. You see people in the book start to mirror the cards in a deck. It’s like a real life game of cards where you play with your entire life.

We’ve all heard stories of fortune tellers and tarot card readers, but this is really nothing like that, while being similar at the same time. I know, I’m not making any sense and presenting a contradictory description. But I feel that’s fair here because the ties to cards lends a familiarity to the story. But how the cards are woven into real life is unlike anything I’ve read before. This book features a strangeness, a surreal quality that is achieved with this blending of magic and bizarre situations to otherwise normal people much the same way Gaiman’s books do.

As much as I see to love about this book, have to confess that I seem to have had a bit of a Love-Ambivelant relationship with this one. I loved the humor, I loved the action that would occur at times, I loved some of the mystery behind it. But I also found my self feeling rather ambivalent about components of the story as well. I think mainly the level  in which cards were integrated into the story. I mean, they had to be, the entire story revolved around cards, but sometimes, the details about the cards and how they relate, how one hand might relate to another, the rules, etc. I just didn’t care about those details to the extent they were told and would feel my interest wane a bit. The plot also didn’t seem to move at a good enough pace to keep me fully engaged (or maybe it felt that way because of my waning interest). It actually reminded me of how I would tire of reading about the card games in Gardens of the Moon, but honestly, it was more of a task for me in this than it was in GotM where it was more of a slightly amusing type of too long, not a lose my interest type of long.

I will also mention that this book seemed to straddle my weirdness threshold. (I don’t often care for books if they get “too weird” for me). It didn’t quite cross that, but it walked the line in parts. This makes it a hard one to review because I certainly see qualities in it I respect, and I can understand why there’s a good amount of love for this book and author. I am curious if another book by Powers may work better for me.




I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.

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9 thoughts on “Backlist Burndown Review: Last Call by Tim Powers”

  1. I loved this book – I saw Pat Rothfuss at PhxCC last year and he wouldn’t stop raving about it – at pretty much every panel he did he brought it up. It hit all those weird places that Gibson and Philip K Dick did for me, without being all cyber. Its the only Powers I’ve read, but I’ve had Declare and On Stranger Tides recommended to me as well – Declare is some sort of Eastern Bloc supernatural spy thriller with ghosts (I think) and On Stranger Tides was made into Pirates of the Caribbean 4.
    Michael Senft recently posted…Tough Traveling — Dad!My Profile

  2. I’ve always wanted to read Tim Powers. The Anubis Gates is at the top of my list to read from him – I’ve heard a lot of good things about it – but I could see myself liking this one too. I’m not super into cards games, so all the game details could bore me too, but a card game where you are literally betting your life and soul away could make for a pretty interesting story – specially if a character is a compulsive gambler.
    DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape) recently posted…Backlist Burndown: The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian StaveleyMy Profile

  3. I read this soooo long ago! Tim Powers used to be one of my very favorite writers, way before blogging, but I haven’t read anything from him recently. I think my favorite of his is The Anubis Gates. It would be fun to go back and see if I still enjoy him the way I used to, since my tastes have evolved over the years:-)
    Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…INK AND BONE by Rachel Caine – ReviewMy Profile

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