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After accidentally summoning a demon while playing poker, the normally mild-mannered Chesney Anstruther refuses to sell his soul... which leads through various confusions to, well, Hell going on strike. Which means that nothing bad ever happens in the world - and that actually turns out to be a really bad thing.

There's only one thing for it. Satan offers Chesney the ultimate deal - sign the damned contract, and he can have his heart's desire. And thus the strangest superhero duo ever seen - in Hell or on Earth - is born!

Before I make my thoughts on this know, I have a confession to make. I used to be a big fan of authors like Terry Prattchet, Robert Robert Rankin and Tom Holt. So much so that there was a time when I rarely read anything else. In the hay day of comic fantasy there was a period where there were more books to read than I had time for. It has been about 16 years since I last read Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt and about 8 years since I last read Robert Rankin. I just slowly but surely got burnt out on them.

So I was a bit hesitant to crack open this book. There's still a lot of books I really want to read so taking a chance with this book had me a bit worried. I decided to give it hour and see how it went. A good six hours later I realised I still had all the house work to do, and I really should go and pick up the boy child from school. Yes the book is that good. You maybe wondering why I even wanted to take such a punt on a book, to be honest it was two things, the synopsis of the book sounded like fun, and I really really liked the cover.

Matthew Hughes has entered the the all ready crowded comic fantasy market, with his own unique voice and style of humour, he will soon elbow his way right to centre of the genre. The story itself is fun, witty but more importantly it is full of heart. This is and i hate to use the term a nice book, full of fun, and an charming take on the role of sin. Hughes writing is both funny and clever, with some great descriptive passages. he has a style that instantly hooks the reader, that manages to balance the fine line between being a funny novel, and novel that is just full of jokes. The humour goes from raising a wry smile, to full on belly laughs. However novels like this live or die on the strength of the narrative.

The story never feels forced, or just as the framework to hang the humour from, you could cut the humour from the story and you would still have a rather fine piece of fiction.
I will be picking up the next instalment of this series without a doubt. A highly recommended read.
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on 2 October 2011
I purchased this book because of the Indie comic style cover and the gripping description in the back.
The beginning was awesome, went straight into the action of summoning a lesser demon by accident and refusing to give his soul thus making the worlds sin to stop which should be good but it actually makes the world go around. Making a deal with the devil to become a superhero 2 hours a day to save him selling his soul sounds like a good story but halfway through it just drags on, I feel the author done his big idea in the beginning but had trouble keeping it up (The author behind the keyboard thinking what the hell do I do now).

Had to stop I was so bored, I cant believe its gonna be a series, the author has got the skill of making a great plot but not keeping the quirky slick story going.
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On reading the book blurb for this title I really wasn't sure what I was going to get. Yes I knew that there was going to be superhero antics, yes I knew that heaven and hell were involved and yes I was aware that humour was to take all these concepts and blend them together in one unholy amalgam.

The trouble with humour though is that its subjective to the reader, especially when you think that the whole Heaven and Hell angle has only really been tackled in two humour titles previously in recent years, Lamb by Christopher Moore and of course the now lauded Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Why just these two? Well it's a tricky blend to achieve and to be honest very few do it well enough to get away.

What Matt achieves in this title is not only chock full of humour but a title that has an unlikely hero, a devilishly intriguing sidekick and above all else a plot that moves along at its own pace keeping the humour very much in the fore. It makes no bones about what it is, it has some novel solutions and it was a title that gave me a lot of fun with my reading time, so much so that I really couldn't wait to get back to it. All in the prose is decent, the characters outstanding and the overall arc very pleasing to the reader. Great stuff.
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Mild-mannered actuary Chesney Anstruther lives a quiet life consisting of work, a weekly poker game with some work colleagues and reading graphic novels featuring his favourite superhero, The Driver. But while making a poker table one night, he inadvertently summons a demon who offers him the standard contract of signing his soul away in return for his heart’s desire. The only problem is that Chesney refuses to sign and that causes a crisis in Hell that results in all the workers going on strike, which in turn causes chaos on Earth as people are no longer tempted by sin.

With the help of a televangelist called Billy Lee Hardacre and his evangelical mother, Chesney works out a deal with Satan that sees him forming a superhero duo with a weasel headed demon called Xaphan ...

The first in Matthew Hughes’s comedy fantasy trilogy is an amusing read with an interesting twist on superhero origin stories. Chesney is an interesting enough foil – a fundamentally decent guy who’s possibly on the autism spectrum – his stubborn refusal to sign a contract with Satan is the driving force for the book’s events. I enjoyed the relationship he has with sidekick Xaphan (whose conversation and attitudes comes straight from the 1920s) and the way he explores the limits and twists in the accommodation that he reaches with Satan. However, the trilogy came from a short story idea and that shows in the pacing, with a lot of time spent on the set-up rather than in the main story-arc that relates to the plans certain interests have for the city and the main conflict in the story is confined to the final quarter and summarily dismissed in an unsatisfying way. I was also disappointed with the female characters, who are confined to Chesney’s hypocritical and hectoring mother, the petulant, bitchy and unobtainable crush Poppy and the brassy and sexually forward Melda who doesn’t hide her designs on Chesney’s superhero alter-ego. Despite these issues, Hughes’s light touch and the potential of the material makes me interested in checking out the sequel to see where the overall story goes.

For me the best scenes are those where Chesney begins his superhero work and has to learn how to juggle his real and superhero identities. There are some good lines and amusing situations and I enjoyed Hughes’s wry narrative tone, which will ensure I check out the next book.
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on 4 May 2012
There is a quintessential British genre that mixes fantasy/science fiction with bureaucracy. Gilliam did it with `Brazil', Adams with `Hitchhiker's Guide'. More modern exponents include the likes of Tom Holt and Andrew Harman. There is something highly amusing about taking big concepts and undermining them with petty middle management. In Matthew Hughes `Damned Busters' he takes the idea of hell and has it crawl to a halt when the demons go on strike. Sounds like an amusing idea, but there is one problem mixing bureaucracy with fiction; one is fun, the other is boring - too much politics makes the book a dull boy.

It is unfortunate that this is the exact trap that Hughes falls into. The initial set up is excellent as the autistic Chesney summons up a demon in error and refuses to give up his soul. The segments that see him become a superhero are also fun - balancing his hunger to do good, with a demon that is always looking to undermine him. It is the rest of the book that drags a little - the overlong explanations on how hell is ran, or God's plan to rewrite humanity. As concepts they work, but the in fighting of all the characters feels petty and longwinded. This is probably the idea, but it makes the book drag more than it should.

At the centre `Damned Busters' is a great book struggling to get out; cool concept, interesting characters and funny writing. However, all the peripheral components get in the way. I will certainly pick up the sequel in the near future, where I hope this issue is resolved.

The kindle conversion is a good one with no errors that I could find.
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on 4 May 2012
There is a quintessential British genre that mixes fantasy/science fiction with bureaucracy. Gilliam did it with `Brazil', Adams with `Hitchhiker's Guide'. More modern exponents include the likes of Tom Holt and Andrew Harman. There is something highly amusing about taking big concepts and undermining them with petty middle management. In Matthew Hughes `Damned Busters' he takes the idea of hell and has it crawl to a halt when the demons go on strike. Sounds like an amusing idea, but there is one problem mixing bureaucracy with fiction; one is fun, the other is boring - too much politics makes the book a dull boy.

It is unfortunate that this is the exact trap that Hughes falls into. The initial set up is excellent as the autistic Chesney summons up a demon in error and refuses to give up his soul. The segments that see him become a superhero are also fun - balancing his hunger to do good, with a demon that is always looking to undermine him. It is the rest of the book that drags a little - the overlong explanations on how hell is ran, or God's plan to rewrite humanity. As concepts they work, but the in fighting of all the characters feels petty and longwinded. This is probably the idea, but it makes the book drag more than it should.

At the centre `Damned Busters' is a great book struggling to get out; cool concept, interesting characters and funny writing. However, all the peripheral components get in the way. I will certainly pick up the sequel in the near future, where I hope this issue is resolved.
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VINE VOICEon 6 June 2011
The plotline for this novel centres on Chesney - a geeky actuary who is astranged from society, naive and emotionally stunted. Brilliant with numbers and inept with people he lives in the fantasy world of comics (or comix as the author insists on writing). A bizarre set of events involving a poker game, dripping blood, nonsense spoken in place of swearing (his mother is very religious) and a badly made table lead him to summon a demon. A faustian tale does not quite unfold when Chesney refuses to sell his soul and the denizens of hell take industrial action. Instead we learn a little about how the world works including why evil is necessary and what God is really upto. Stage two of the story follows when Chesney makes a very favourable deal with the devil turning him into the Actionary (a superhero so derivative only Chesney can't see the funny side) accompanied by a weasel like '20s gangster demon, pursued by a weary cop, caught up in politics he can't understand and caught between two beautiful women he understands even less.

Now you may like that idea or you may not. If you don't nothing in this book is going to change your mind. If you do, you'll probably love this. The book is fast paced, there's plenty of pathos, Xaphan the demonic sidekick is brilliant and there are some nice ideas about heaven and hell and their eternal confrontation. Fans of comic books will probably draw more from this than the rest of us but I think just about anyone could and would enjoy this. The characters aren't hugely subtle or complex but they have enough depth that you do care about them and Chesney at least gets to grow a little. I read it in about three days which is pretty good going for me. I wouldn't say it's can't put it down have to turn the page good but it's certainly worth a read.
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on 16 March 2012
I was recommended to give this book a bash by one of my mates and i'm happy to say i wasn't disappointed.

My only gripe with the book was the third chapter i just found it was too jammed with loads of folk talking and found it easy to lose my way while reading it. it was on a par with the Council of Elrond in the LOTR books.

The rest of the book was a hoot and not like a normal "Super Hero" story.

In short if you like your Heroes of the Super variety then read this.
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VINE VOICEon 14 May 2012
Let me explain.

Back in the 40's there was a short lived fantasy magazine called Unknown edited by John W. Campbell who also edited its companion magazine Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog). The stories were modern fantasy, often with a sense of humour and its more notable authors included L.Sprague de Camp, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, and (ahem, before he created Scientology and never stopped laughing all the way to the bank) L.Ron Hubbard.

This entertaining novel seemed to me to be nothing more than a modern update on the old Unknown stories with its fallible demons, unscrupulous city bosses, beautiful women (dames, back then), and bumbling hero. In this case the hero suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, has never been kissed, and only knows about sex from pornography which he naively admits to being his only real diversion from his work as an actuary. Naive but intelligent and highly logical, he manages to get the better of the demons, gains super-powers with which to fight crime and a demon assistant. Then his problems really begin.

A lot of fun and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel which should arrive in the next couple of days.
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on 8 November 2012
I wasn't sure about this book from previous reviews about how the first half was good and then tailed off towards the end but I found it enjoyable up to the end. If you are looking for something easy to read and follow wth good humour then I don't think you will be disappointed.
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