Johannes Cabal the Detective
By Jonathan L Howard
So here we have the return of Johannes Cabal, a little older, maybe a little wiser; at the very least more "complete" than he was, this time he's attempting to steal a rare book in his continued quest to understand how to defeat death. Captured in the act and awaiting execution Cabal is forced to resurrect an inconveniently deceased would be Emperor.
Using that rare mix of resourcefulness and diabolical ingenuity we have come to expect, he engineers an escape on board a state-of-the-art flying ship on it's maiden voyage. The ship however has more than a few surprises including a face from the past and mysterious murders. Cabal must turn detective if he is to have any chance of remaining on this mortal coil.
Reading this book is like meeting up again with a very good friend who also happens to be an award winning stand up comedian specialising in observational humour. The last time I had as much simple fun reading a book was the quite crazy "John Dies at the End". There is a fantastically witty and intelligent dialogue that is just full of surprises. In many ways this sequel is even better than it's predecessor, the author manages to defy many conventions when telling this story and play a lot with the very structure, skipping parts and coming back to them later and inter-spacing chapters with anecdotal diagrams and notes. Not only is this quite brave - it takes an author with a great deal of skill to carry out effectively - but allows the author to try a number of different experiments.
Where the first novel was fairly ambiguous in terms of location and time setting, here it is made clearer that we are in an alternative universe that draws some inspiration from steam-punk but has a unique style all it's own. Good old blighty is mentioned but the real genius is how the author manages to combine these real world references with those of countries that are straight from his imagination and yet seem just as real. He manages to play further with this theme by giving the german-esque characters classical English accents and mannerisms.
Johannes himself steals the show again though, and now he's reunited with that other part of himself we get to see him try and come to terms with those aspects of humanity that he was otherwise lacking. I love the warped sense of personal reality that he enjoys, a skewed perspective that he sees himself as a savour of mankind trying to defeat death for the good of all. It's not that he deliberately goes against social convention or commits acts out of "evil" intent but more that he stands outside of that reality and for him these social morals just don't exist.
I just loved every minute of this book, there are no boring bits, no slowdown and no parts that for me didn't work, simply fantastic fiction.
Written on 12th October 2011 by Ant .