Friday, 20 May 2011
The Damned Busters, by Matthew Hughes – reviewed by Stephen Theaker
This remarkable transformation came as quite a surprise (reviewing from an epub ARC, I hadn’t spent much time looking at the (excellent) cover – and if the superhero angle wasn’t shown on the front cover I would have avoided mentioning it here as a spoiler), but it came at just the right time, that is to say, just when I was about ready, in my impatient way, to give up on the book. Though I’d quite enjoyed the early chapters – they had some interesting thoughts on the potential consequences of hell’s minions going on strike, for example – a few hundred pages more of the same would have been too much for me. When Chesney becomes a superhero the novel doesn’t move past the contractual wrangling that dragged a little in those early pages, but it all becomes much more fun. The idea of a superhero whose powers have contractual limits is, I think, a fairly novel one, and the book explores it well, with a good deal of charm; imagine a Robert Sheckley take on decompressed superheroics.
Further volumes are planned; it doesn’t feel like a novel that requires a sequel, but the battle is after all never-ending. Though a thread marks the trail to the next book, the reader with no plans to read on will not be unsatisfied by the conclusion. Or at least not for that reason; the drama of the climactic game of poker was pretty much lost on me, since I had no idea whether the players should be glad of the cards they received or not. (And why didn’t either party, once they were ahead, just fold all remaining hands?)
I didn’t adore The Damned Busters the way I did this author’s Quartet & Triptych – the books couldn’t have been more different – but by the end it had won me over, and I’ll remember it fondly.
The Damned Busters, Matthew Hughes. Angry Robot, pb/ebook, 416pp. Reviewed from epub ARC. Amazon UK. Amazon US.