"In a country homogenized by Starbucks and Wal-Mart, he knew he'd never find another place where the dead had their own cities and strange people worshipped even stranger gods..."
Mutiny in Heaven centres on young musician Neil Victory, from his childhood in a grim New Orleans orphanage, a brutal murder he witnesses as a runaway, onto his burgeoning career as a rockstar. The peculiar scarring on his back gives a clue to his true birthright - Neil is a Nephilim, a child of woman and angel; one of the first to be born since the great flood of Noah. His mere existence is an abomination; but there are many with an interest in him, and not just those sent to wipe him out.
The fortunes of his band, Angel X Machina, are turned around with the arrival of Mistress Gris, a dominatrix who introduces Neil to X and Iaidon. X is really Zave, the only survivor of the slayings Neil witnessed ten years earlier. Iaidon is of the Abila; the rebellious angels who mated with mortal women to produce the first Nephilim. Condemned to serve in Heaven's most hideous division - the bureaucratic Ministry of Death - Iaidon has once again determined to breed more of his master race and bring war to the Creator. Funding the band's next album, Iaidon seeks to use their music as a way to spread his influence, to corrupt and control humanity.
Heaven meanwhile, dispatches Miam, another Abila and M.O.D Agent, to deal with Neil and the increasing number of unclaimed souls haunting New Orleans. The situation is further complicated by the return of Vine, the man responsible for the death of Zave's family; a killer who's literally afraid of his own shadow.
In the hands of a lesser writer, Whitney Lakin's sophmore effort would have been absurd at best. There are so many wild threads to her tale that the whole thing could have descended into an almighty trash-goth catastrophe. Fortunately, Lakin's is an extraordinary talent, able to combine the sacred with the profane, the ridiculous with the astute, the horrific with the humorous.
Reading Mutiny in Heaven, one has to wonder at the imagination that came up with such an outrageous and original storyline. With very little research or knowledge, one could easily construct a tale of fallen angels screwing goths and chasing serial killers. What Lakin has managed is to craft an exciting, entertaining and intelligent story that should be nonsensical drivel. Being well versed in Judeo-Christian apocrypha has allowed her to keep the plot vital and alive, while the deep-background of her research gives the narrative its weight.
The novel is also very much a love-letter to the city and spirit of New Orleans. Every character is determined to live on his or her own terms: Iaidon with his war on Heaven, Neil doggedly chasing his dream of fame and finding his family; even Vine's need to escape his own dark half. Lakin's New Orleans is less a city of sin but one of self-determination - regardless of how beautiful or terrible you choose to be. It's telling that The Ministry of Death is portrayed as a vast bureaucracy, as we are led to ask: what's more hellish? Iaidon's New Orleans or Miam's Heaven?
Whitney Lakin's debut, A Paintbrush in the Devil's Toolbox
, was one of the most enjoyable and original horror novels of recent years. Also one of the most sorely overlooked. It was also only the beginning. With Mutiny in Heaven it's clear that she is going from strength to strength. Her brand of idiosyncratic, thoughtful and (at times) insane fiction deserves far wider recognition.