THE DAMNED BUSTERS (Hell and Back #1)
by Matthew Hughes
PUBLISHER: Angry Robot
RELEASE DATE: 3rd May 2011
FORMAT: Ebook, 416 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
After accidentally summoning a demon, 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… with disastrous consequences. (Goodreads)
After two pretty lacklustre books, I was in need of a change. So to change things up, I decided to read THE DAMNED BUSTERS. From the very first chapter, I knew that I had made the right choice in picking up this book.
The plot could easily have fallen into the cliché of the hero trying to battle hell to put things right, but the author turns the idea on its head from the get go.
Due to the main characters decision that he won’t sell his soul, the demons go on strike. Thus turning the world on its head. At first a world without sin seems to be the ideal dream, but we get to see how sin is the balancing part of life. Without sin there is no pride at going to work, or lust for another person. Moderate sin is what actually gives us motivation to live. This was a thought provoking point and it did make me stop and think. How much do we really need a little bit of the seven deadly sins to live in a balanced world?
Without it the world just stops and only Chesney sees what the world is like by remembering what had happened before. Whether it’s a garden that is usually meticulously tended by its owners now empty, to the fact that public transport is non existent due to people not caring what happens and thus not going to work. Chesney and a few others are simply going through the motions of life.
So in an effort to restore this, without giving up his soul, our hero, Chesney strikes a deal to become a super hero and fight crime with the help of his own demon sidekick. There are a number of clauses which keep it all in check and you begin to see that this childhood dream is not as simple as Chesney first thought.
It was at this point I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the movie Kick-Ass. This is not a negative thing, for both deal with the issue that trying to do the right thing is not necessarily the easiest path to choose.
Obstacles are put in our hero’s way and I began to have a respect for Chesney. You can see that the odds are stacked up against him, not only by Hell but also by Heaven. He is just a pawn used by both sides or to put it in a wonderful example used in the book, God is the author of a book he is writing and we are all just characters. And by all, I mean humans, Demons and angels. If the author didn’t like how things were going, he could do re-writes.
It’s this ‘rumour’ that is destined to result in Chesney’s biggest showdown at the end. Not to give too much away, but one character that Chesney crosses paths with has their own deal with demons and as stated in the contract, Chesney’s sidekick can’t interfere in any other deals that are currently valid.
However, since Chesney’s adversary thinks that his contract won’t be valid as the ’book’ will be rewritten breaks the rules. This results in a game of poker between Chesney and the Devil. For me this scene was very reminiscent of Casino Royal and I really liked how it played out.
Overall, the plot zipped along at a decent speed and you got a feel for what life as an insurance odds analyser by day and a crime fighter by night really was.
The supporting characters to the story are interesting and each add something unique to the story.
My favourite had to be the demon sidekick, Xaphan. He is the comic relief to the story and you can’t help warming to him. I especially liked how he tricked Chesney into allowing him to have alcohol and cigars in their “go-between” room. Without this character the story would be lacking.
My least favourite character had to be Melda. Though Chesney came to her rescue a couple of times, she came across a bit whiney in the end. I never really warmed to her and was a bit perplexed when Chesney ended up with her at the end.
This is not to say that I would have wanted him to end up with the other female character, Poppy Paxton, the local tycoons daughter who Chesney saves from being kidnapped. It’s just when comparing the two, Poppy was the more interesting of the two female characters. You could tell that she was a daddies girl and she was used to getting what she wanted. I had images of her standing in the room, holding her breath, eyes closed and fingers in her ears having a tantrum. Melda, as a character just didn’t pop up in my mind at all, and for the love interest of the main protagonist, it isn’t enough for me.
As for Chesney, he was an endearing sort of guy. He has a clear sense of right and wrong, but it almost in a child like way at times. His wish to be a superhero made me smile, for I know that at times I too wished I could have been a superhero. When he is not the Actionatory, he is almost invisible to everyone. He works at an insurance firm, crunching numbers and figures in order to calculate risks. It’s also hinted that his mother has been an overbearing presence in his life. He is the underdog, and for that reason alone I ended up rooting for him. That out of all this he would succeed.
At the end of the book, it looks like his life is in some sort of order, but that those high above have more plans for our hero.
An enjoyable book with some very thought provoking themes, with an endearing lead. I’d recommend this book to anyone who liked the film, Kick-Ass, as both deal with the same theme but in very different ways.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1. The Damned Busters
2. Costume Not Included