Monday, September 20, 2010

The Devil You Know: More English Wit Than You Can Normally Get In The States



In case you hadn't noticed from the content of this blog, I consume a great quantity of media. Videogames, movies, TV shows, anime, comics, novels. I'll take it all, and there's so much good stuff out there. It's a pretty hard thing to manage not to get inundated with it all, so hard, that I just don't even try. I have wish lists that are pages long for all of these things. So, kind of a rambling lead-in, but I finally made it to one of those items, which is the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey.

I was on a message board for comics, and people got to talking about books, and the statement was made "If you like the Dresden Files series, you really need to check out the Felix Castor series, it's even better."

So, I dove in. I always have a problem with these urban fantasy novels, and a lot of writing in general, but there's always the first chapter that you have to get through, where they explain just how "cool" their character is. Castor where's an army great coat, with some pockets sewn into it, one to hold his tin flute that used to belong to a mad serial killer (I could be remembering that wrong, but it was something like that) as well as some random paraphernalia for his trade. It's always a little thick, and I just can't get past the feeling that this is the writer telling you what they think is "cool". In reality I think it's just a necessary part of the setup, and there's no way around it, except to get it out of the way fast.

What is Castor's profession? He's an exorcist, more specifically, the entire series of books occurs after some turning point, where all of the sudden the dead started coming back to Earth en masse. It's not that it never happened before, just that now it happens so much, that no one can deny it. There are, of course, your traditional ghosts, that come back incorporeal, with little ability to interact with the physical, unless they're really mad. But Carey also tossed in a couple of clever explanations for classic supernatural creatures that still ties them back to ghosts. Zombies are spirits that have returned to Earth by possessing their old bodies. Loupgarous, or Weres are human spirits that have possessed the bodies of animals, reshaping the animal's form into that of the body they wore while living, at times of great stress, or during a full moon, the animal reasserts more control, and they start to lose their human form.

So, the dead are back and all around, and they're giving the living a hard time. So exorcists start coming out of the woodwork, exorcists are psychics that are able to see ghosts, and also sense them using a sixth sense, when paired with some form of focus, they are able to banish the offending spirits. Castor uses his tin flute, he starts to play a song on it, and using his sense of the spirit, changes the tune until it "fits" the spirit, which binds the spirit and the tune together, then, when the song ends, the spirit goes with it.

I'm spending a lot of time talking about the mechanics of the world, because it's good, and it works, Carey's managed to bring London alive with spirits and exorcists, and make it all work and follow it's own form of logic.

On top of the great world building, Castor is a snarky englishmen, in the spirit of most noir detective novels, that is haunted, can't seem to make a buck, and won't take shit from anyone without some lip.

I only found out once I'd read a fair way into the book that Carey wrote the comic Hellblazer for a fair run, and after reading that, I can see a lot of John Constantine in Felix Castor.

So, if you like Hellblazer, Dresden Files, or just urban fantasy in general, you could do a lot worse than the Devil You Know, which is the first book in the Felix Castor series.

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