Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer

It's not often that I come across a story that is completely unique. This may be, though, because I am not well-versed in horror genre. Labeling this a horror book seems questionable to me although I have seen it listed as such online.

The tastefully named Jonathan Howard is the writer of Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer, a book I bought for the library and one I was the second to read (my oldest son beat me to it and enjoyed it also (and he is a fan of Lovecraft)).

It is about a fellow Cabal, who, by selling his soul to Satan, has learned the power of necromancy. The book begins with Cabal traveling to hell to visit Satan in order to get his soul back. While obviously powerful and confident, Cabal has been disappointed with his "successes" in raising the dead and wants to renegotiate. Satan is cool with the idea and promises to give Cabal his soul back in exchange for 100 souls in a year's time, but they must be acquired with the aid of a traveling carnival.

Cabal is a necromancer, not a businessman, so he turns to his older brother Horst, a shrewd fellow, for assistance. The thing is, Horst is a vampire (and has become so because of Cabal although it is never explained how), and has been entrapped in a tomb for quite some time until Cabal comes to release him.

Cabal staffs his carnival with the undead, sometimes killing the people so that he can raise them from the dead. We find that his skills are flawed and that there always tends to be something wrong with the finished product, despite years of practice.

As the year comes to a close, Cabal finds himself a few souls short and has to resort to trickery to get the last few souls. Up to that point, he "nobly" takes the souls of those whose actions in life have already ticketed their souls for Satan. It is when he takes the souls of these innocents that Satan's plans become clear.

In the end, however, Cabal finds a way to trick Satan as well and he returns to his home, the first time we realize he has one, where we find why (vaguely) Cabal needed to become a necromancer in the first place.

The book is dark but also very funny with some laugh out loud spots in it. The writing is a little uneven which can be expected and forgiven of a first novel. There is a lot of missing backstory which would have been nice to have (How and why is Horst a vampire? How and why is Cabal a necromancer? How did he come to meet Satan and make that trade in the first place? Etc.). There is rumor of another book already even though this book has only been available in the U.S. since July. Whether this is a sequel, prequel or both, or whether it even exists, remains to be seen. I'll definitely read it when it comes out and I recommend this book because of its unusual story.

1 comment:

--Transfixed Ingress said...

It is not often that I come across a guy that is completely unique. Labeling him a horror is questionable. But there's this one thing I remember him for and it was, shall we say, mildly grotesque. He could attach Bic pens to his face. Yes. That's right. Bic pens. The kind that come in a value pack from the office supply store. Cheap white pens, with blue caps. I wonder what he would look like with a dozen or so attached to his face right now.....

How many bic pens can a grown man attach to his face?

You would expect something so simple, so random in the internet age to be easy to find - Google will identify hits. Lots of people attach pens to their faces. There will be images and my morbid curiosity will be satisfied. Lo and behold - nada. Maybe a few images of random guys with a few pens on their faces - nothing. Not a single guy, with a single pen stuck on his face.

After hours, ok minutes - alright about 45 seconds of random searching, I find one silly guy with pens dangling from every facial orifice - but attached via the little blue cap to the skin of his face - no. And this guy has a variety of writing implements up his nose and in his ears. No symmetry. No grace. No panache.

I wonder if someone out there wouldn't put together a quick how to video showing the world the intricacies and skill and minor pain of attaching a handful of pens to one's face.