26 October 2016

Books: The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey (2016)

Richard Kadrey has written 9 novels in his Sandman Silm series (which I was aware of, yet have not read) that is part of publishing’s latest subgenre called Urban Fantasy. Those books feature James "Sandman Slim" Stark, who escapes from Hell to take his revenge on the people that killed his lover. So he wanders the dark streets of Los Angeles that is haunted by vampires and demons –and after 11 years of combat as a gladiator against demons in Hell, he is more than prepared to fight back. It sounds very Angel like, to me and the premise a bit something we’ve seen before, but if they’re good, I guess I might take them up some day.

The Everything Box is the start of a new Urban Fantasy series for the prolific author, and though its premise is remarkably familiar (see Paul Cornell’s London Falling and Severed Streets and Ben Aaronovitch’s River of London series, along with Daniel O'Malley's Rook series) but unlike others, the book adds doses of broad humor, some funny one-liners and really tries not to take itself too seriously. 

Coop is a burglar who specializes in overcoming magical traps and spells, thanks to his natural immunity to them –i.e. the supernatural magic does not work on him. Just out of jail after a job gone sour, he’s recruited to steal a mysterious box for a well-paying client. Coop is far from the only person after the box; he and his crew must contend with a middle-class doomsday cult, agents from the Department of Peculiar Science, a temporally displaced homicidal stranger, and the angel who lost the box in the first place. Coop soon finds himself in the middle of a shadow war between heaven and Earth, with the biblical apocalypse at stake.

Kadrey draws a lot from the works of writers like Tim Powers, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, Christopher Moore, and (I think) The Venture Bros. verbose and idiotic bad guy The Monarch. But he also slides in a rather droll caper aspect as well, which often reminded me of Gregory Macdonald’s Fletch & Flynn novels and a lot of other 1970s detective books (and a bit of TV's The Rockford Files to boot) that generally centered on over-the-top characters, both good and evil. 

Thirty years ago, this hardcover would’ve been a paperback original, probably with a 1970s inspired cover, but it’s still worthy of a read. Kadrey’s out to have fun, and the book fits nicely between Moore’s supernatural world of San Francisco, which has a deeper, more real-life feeling to it and Tim Powers Los Angeles based Dark Fantasy books that draws on ancient mythology. The Everything Box may not be deep, but it sure is a delight.

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