The Ex Machina series has settled into a predictable pattern wherein three things happen in every volume: 1) Mayor Hundred tackles some kind of political firestorm, usually of his own creation that 2) is reminiscent of an adventure that his superhero alter-ego The Great Machine partook in before Mitchell Hundred ran for mayor, while 3) events transpire around him over which he has little control, such as a crime spree that may or may not relate to the (alien?) oddities surrounding his powers and those of his one-time nemesis or perhaps a behind-the-scenes conspiracy arrayed against him and getting closer step by incremental step.
And if it was not for the fact that the writing is pretty decent and I really enjoy the little drops of information about what’s behind it all, I think the predictability would get me to start losing my interest, by and large. Especially in books like Smoke, Smoke where our hero isn’t even particularly all that likable. But then again, I trust the author by now, too, so that helps me maintain momentum.
In case you were wondering, thing 1 relates to marijuana, thing 2 relates to a vigilante drug bust, and thing 3 mostly involves a firefighter on a crime spree that is, unfortunately, played far more for shocks than for story arc relevance. But there’s some pretty cool stuff going on too, most especially in the stand-alone final issue contained in the book. So don’t believe it’s as dire as I seem to be letting on. But I will want to like the protagonist again by the next book; that’s pretty important.