Friday, September 27, 2013

Justin Robinson's CITY OF DEVILS

First of all, look at the cover. Just look at it! Isn't it the most pulptastic thing you've seen since those covers Kelley Jones did for Steve Niles' Edge of Doom a few years back? Serioiusly, if that cover doesn't make  you want to drop everything and go get you a copy of City of Devils, I... I question your capacity for joy in this life!

OK, I'm going to calm down in a moment here, I promise. But, you know, this is the new novel from Justin "Mr. Blank" Robinson, so a little gushy excitement on my part is entirely in order.

This time around, Robinson has taken a page from Angry Robot's team playbook and come out with a classic bit of genre mashing. There have been plenty of crime/noir-meets-fantasy/horror novels in the last few years, but did we really need yet another one, however good?

Well, yes, yes we did. Because this isn't just horror noir, this is movie monster horror noir, you guys. Campy movie monster horror noir, even.. As in the world in which this novel is set is one in which, sometime not long after World War II came another gigantic and world-changing war as the result of a violent unknown event* that transformed a sizable portion of humanity into real-world movie monsters of every kind, from mummies in cheesy faux Egyptian regalia to wolfmen to werewolves (there's a difference, you know) to Frankenstein's monster (which I guess now should be plural) to witches to gremlins to doppelgangers to... you get the idea. And not only are movie monsters now real, but each and every one of them has the power to make more monsters -- by "turning" ordinary humans into whatever monster the turning monster is. Which all of the monsters are very keen to do. Really really keen.

This results in a Los Angeles, ca I'm guessing the late 1950s or early 1960s, in which plain old human beings are a persecuted minority, hunted and despised, and in which there is exactly one human private eye left in the city: our man Nick Moss. Who just got hired by a famous movie star/doppelganger to find her missing husband, a prominent and powerful mummy.

Of course Mr. Moss uncovers a much deeper and more intricate plot than just a missing husband, as we quickly learn when his fellow (hee) humanitarians start getting bumped off one by one.

The resulting book is dense, deeply silly and a whole lot of fun. As a follow-up to Mr. Blank it comes off as something of a lesser work but pretty much anything would probably seem that way, though, nota bene for those who got annoyed by some of the gender/body image politics that crept into Mr. Blank (as I did, slightly), who will be happy to learn that there is none of that to be had in City of Devils.

And in its place is loads of crazy, inventive over-the-top fun as Mr. Moss escapes from werewolves, phantoms (as in "of the opera"), wolfmen (remember, there is a difference), a lovesick pumpkinhead who dreams of connubial bliss after he's turned Moss into another pumpkinhead, ogres, giant crawling eyeballs, gremlins, cops and movie studio executives. Some of whom fill more than one role.

Ridiculous good fun, this!

*Wink, as always, at the Peter Greenaway fans out there.

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