Waldo Bell is a caravan master used to carting valuable loads between the cities of a world that has been changed by rising of the great ones. After completing one such job, he wants nothing more than to sit down with a nice meal and a bottle of vermouth. Unfortunately for him, he's been framed for murder. And not just any murder, but the ritualistic killing of a friend. What follows is a fairly by-the-numbers noir story about Waldo proving his innocence, and discovering that the stakes are much higher than a stint in the lockup.
There's a lot to like in The Stars Were Right. An intriguing city built in tiers, with mysterious flooded levels. Hints at a history similar to our own, but irrevocably changed after the rising of numerous Lovecraft'ian gods. Interesting ties to various mythologies, and the possibility that magic and monsters were around even before the gods awoke. And it's all tied together with fluid prose, and some turns of phrase that had me grinning at the page. I even highlighted a passage I quite liked, and I don't often do that.
“Demoninations of millions became sects of thousands. Sects of thousands became fellowship of hundreds, and fellowships of hundreds scattered like leaves before a storm.”
But the story never quite gripped me like some in the fantasy noir style have. I think there were a few reasons for this, but most of them boiled down to the main character being a bit bland. Waldo just never really grabbed my attention, and as the whole book is written from his perspective, I often found myself labouring through chapters. He also felt a little indestructible, picking up more and more wounds and barely slowing down, which removed a lot of the tension.
I'm also not a big fan of Lovecraft or anything in his works, Cthulu and the rest of the elder gods don't really do it for me. Luckily, though The Stars Were Right definitely draws from Lovecraft as inspiration, it doesn't delve too deep into the lore, or bamboozle us with unpronounceable names. I never felt unable to connect to the world or unable to visualise any of the half dozen races that inhabit it.
I liked The Stars Were Right, but didn't love it. The world was intriguing and I'd have loved to have learned a bit more about it, and where the new races came from and how they all fit together. But I felt the main character could have used more development.