I love an Urban Fantasy Story that's a little different to the norm, some are cutting edge, some take the reader into a world that they never expected and some lead the way in a new direction. What this title by Chuck does is delivers a murder mystery to the reader by bringing in a whole set of characters that leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable, not purely because of the otherness about them but because of their abilities to mess with the minds of mankind.
It's hard hitting, it's straight to the point and thrusts the reader into a tangled web right from the get go. It's definitely hardcore and whilst this book wasn't for me, I think that there will be a fair few out there that will love this style (perhaps the best way to describe it is a Marmite book, you'll love or hate it.) The lead character within has flaws, he's made hard choices, sacrifices and above all else indentured himself into this dark world for pure motives.
Throw him into the darkening despair that the opening sequence gives to him alongside the wonder of whether he's mad or not all round gives the book a flair for the dramatic.
Chuck Wendig's Unclean Spirits is the first novel in Abaddon Books' "Gods and Monsters" series. Abaddon are a publisher straight out of the pulp tradition, producing fiction which broadly slots into the horror and dark fantasy category, from the steampunk shared universe of "Pax Brittania" (Al Ewing's Zorro v Nazi's splatterpunk revenge saga "El Sombra" being a particular highlight, and easily read as a standalone) to the fast-paced zombie mash-ups of "Tomes Of The Dead" and the post-apocalyptic "Afterblight Chronicles".
On the subject of horror, who decided we had to start calling it urban fantasy now?
"God and Monsters" is set in a world where deities from assorted ancient and modern pantheons walk the earth, rubbing shoulders with mortals, and getting down and dirty in a sort of hardboiled American Gods. It's about breakneck speed plotting more than it is philosophical musing and this first novel in the series features plenty of fights, bloodshed and swearing. Chuck Wendig describes himself as a "pen-monkey" and this nod towards the dime a word heyday of the early pulp writers plants him firmly in that tradition. He's also infuriatingly prolific (from the jealous point of view of a writer still trying to get past the aspiring stage) and his Miriam Black series (Blackbird, Mockingbird, The Cormorant) from Angry Robot is also highly recommended. It is also, though steeped in fantasy elements, perhaps a little more immediately accessible to crime fans than this one, and features a compelling bad-ass heroine to boot.
Back to Unclean Spirits: it's fast and full of memorable characters. As well as the gods and washed-up fighter protagonist Cason Cole we have gigantic taxi-driver Tundu and a bomb manufacturing heap of scar tissue called Frank. Cason begins the novel by escaping from servitude to one particular god only to find himself caught up in the schemes of several more, trying to regain the life and family he had before. Gods range from the big names like Aphrodite to lesser known examples such as Slogutis. Coyote has a particularly scene stealing presence, and his surreal relationship to his penis is hilarious. A lot of human and divine blood is spilt and nobody gets an easy ride as schemes come to fruition and truths are revealed.
Unclean spirits is not pretending to be serious literature but it's fun, well-written and pacy the way that good pulp fiction always was. If you like this sort of thing, give it a try.