The Dead Take the A Train
By Cassandra Khaw
- The Dead Take the A Train
Author: Cassandra Khaw
Publisher: Titan Books
- ISBN: 9781803368009
- Published: October 2023
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 11/12/2023
- Language: English
Certain jobs can change you, the things that you see, the things that you must do. You may become closed off, hard, brittle, or just a little bit over the edge. Julie Crews has become all these things and more as a local Psychic Operative. Living off a diet of cocaine, regret and apprentices who only last a few weeks, Julie works at the bottom of the market banishing the demons that others cannot be bothered to do so. That does not make them any less likely to eat you. In fact, in Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey’s The Dead Take the A-Train, Julie not only has to deal with low rent demons, but also the low rent clientele.
Julie spends her days banishing demons, taking drugs, and annoying people. She has done all these things one too many times and she no longer gets the sweet gigs that paid the rent. When Tyler, an ex, gets in touch to offer an olive branch Julie should know that he never does anything out of the kindness of his heart, but bills need paying. Julie finds herself acting as the scapegoat for a megacorp whose sole purpose seems to be to raise the mother of all demons from her slumber.
I adore Urban Fantasy and have read tons of modern takes. Zombies, vampires, demons, I have read about them all and they are present in A-Train, but what makes Khaw and Kadrey’s outing different is the mix of comedy and Cthulhu. This is a modern and twisted vision of Lovecraft, what would have happened if the demons of the deep had been taken under the wing of the cynical modern yuppies that make up the city?
Julie is anything but polished and professional and that is what makes the book enjoyable. We meet Julie on a typical job, fishing a demon out of the body of a soon to be wed bride; all eyeballs and teeth. This being Julie, it is not a straightforward job and getting vengeance on the mother of the bride is worth more than the rent. Compare this to the slick corporate stylings of Tyler and you can see two different ways to get a-head in business.
The novel is told mostly from Julie’s chaotic point of view, and you see her world of working from job to job and trying to sort out her love life and her rent, but it also told from Tyler’s perspective. There are two parallel narratives as we see the infighting within a giant corporation were backstabbing not only happens, but it is also encouraging, and how this effects the outside world.
With demons, violence, murder, mayhem, and drugs abound, this is the most madcap slice of Urban Fantasy you are going to read in a long time. The pace is not sedate, but even so the authors provide enough world building that The Carrion City itself becomes a character. The book is part of a series, and you can tell. This novel has no closure and requires you to read at least one more book to see what is going to happen. Most people will have no trouble wanting to revisit, but if you like a complete narrative, you are left high and dry. The use of Lovecraftian type demons makes for a different feel for the genre, a novel that catches you with the unexpected at every turn.
Written on 11th December 2023 by Sam Tyler .