Monday, February 1, 2010

Dead boys, Demons, Darkness

Comics:

The Sandman Presents The Dead Boy Detectives by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Talbot and Steve Leialoha: A slight delight almost entirely populated by characters created by Neil Gaiman during his Sandman days (hence 'The Sandman Presents'), including the two boarding-school ghost-friends from A Season of Mists and immortal Morpheus-pal Hob Gadling. The boys, who elected not to go with Death back in A Season of Mists, have been goofing off around London ever since, and have now opened a detective agency with its office in a treehouse in the yard of a haunted house. Street kids are disappearing and the turning up dead and extremely desiccated. So the dead boys take the case -- luckily, while most adults can't see them, kids and teenagers can. Various hijinks ensue. Recommended.


Books:

Darkness Demands by Simon Clark (2001): There's a sub-genre of horror in which a town is imperilled repeatedly by a horror which returns cyclically. In Stephen King's It, the creature has been terrorizing the town of Derry, Maine every 28 years or so since before there was even a town there; in Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show travelling carnival returns to the twons on its schedule at about the same frequency. In Darkness Demands, something that 'lives' beneath the massive English cemetery known locally as the Necropolis returns every 70 years or so to request things from randomly selected townspeople. The requests are minor -- bars of chocolate and pints of porter are to be left in the cemetery prior to a certain date. Failure to do so results in extremely bad luck for the person who refuses to do so, and for the entire town if enough people refuse to honour the request. What's doing it and why? Well, you'll have to read the novel. This is a very tightly plotted, suspenseful novel with a climax you may not see coming. Recommended.


A Lower Deep by Tom Piccirilli (2004): The narrator (referred to only as The Necromancer or The Master Summoner) and his demonic familiar Self find themselves pulled back into the machinations of the Necromancer's old coven leader, whose previous major feat of magic destroyed his previous coven with the exception of the narrator and a couple of others. Piccirilli draws on Christian, gnostic and kabbalist sources to portray the magic used by his characters, with a bit of Marvel's Dr. Strange thrown in for good measure (spells crackle and arc before being released). What seems like a pissing match between two former friends turns out to be something much larger, as a version of the Christian apocalypse begins to seem pretty much certain. Piccirilli plays fair with the implications of an apocalypse right out of the Book of Revelation -- would it be such a bad thing if one was on the side of the saved? -- while sketching in enough of the rules of magic so that the novel remains 'fair', even in its surprising final pages. Recommended.

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