Friday, January 16, 2015


by John Birmingham
Pan Macmillan 2014

There must have been a mix up at the Christmas factory because a copy of this landed in my stocking. My first thought was to palm it off as present to somebody else, but the opportunity didn't arise. Like some other folks I know, I was a big fan of the "felafel-era" Birmingham, and disappointed that he subsequently began producing fantasy-action novels. I would have liked to see him take the sharehouse theme worldwide. Or something like that. Anyway, the thought occurred to me that I hadn't actually read any of his fantasy-action novels so I decided to give this one a go.

The story begins with a horde of demons attacking an oil rig off the coast of America. And the plot only gets crazier from there! The protagonist Dave Hooper manages to kill one of the demons with an axe, before he falls unconscious and wakes up in hospital. Soon Dave discovers that he has super powers (yes, really). He can move terribly fast and has incredible strength. He has also inexplicably acquired the knowledge of the demon he killed. With the help of his trusty axe (technically it's a splitting maul), he helps the American military defeat a horrific demon attack on the city of New Orleans.

You would be correct in thinking this book is very silly indeed. The demon horde feels a lot like it escaped from the Warhammer role-playing franchise. Apparently these demons ruled the earth thousands of years ago, treating humans as cattle and fighting amongst themselves. I wondered why none of the scientists in the book mentioned the peculiar absence of any fossil remains of this demon civilization. Possibly I skipped over that page. One thing I did like was that the demons seem to become sexually aroused during the carnage. Call me depraved but I thought it gave these guys an edge over your average fantasy monster.

The story may be ridiculous but Birmingham writes well and the dialogue and descriptions kept me amused. I was chuckling to myself in more than one place as I rediscovered his sense of humour. I also enjoyed the reprobate protagonist. Dave Hooper is the sort of guy who blows his pay check on hookers and cocaine.

A book like this isn't going to change your life. However if you're looking for some hilarious trash this may be the book for you (and I mean that in the best possible way).

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