Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hello twelve, hello thirteen, hello nihilism

Long time readers on here will likely remember what a fan I was of R. S. Belcher's fantastic books set in 19th century Golgotha, Nevada. While I still hope he returns to Golgotha at some point, his more modern Nightwise is still a pretty good substituite for the weird Western.

Unlike Golgotha, here we're in a first person narrative, centered on one Laytham Ballard, a Wisdom out of West by-God Virginia. Well, sort of a Wisdom, since he's pretty much mortgaged part of his soul, doing drugs on the regular, and his Occult Rat pack is dissolved and dying off. One of his former cohorts, Boj lies dying of AIDS related complications in a Hospice, extracting a promise from Laytham to go after Dusan Slorzack, a Balkan bad guy who was responsible for many atrocities against Boj's wife.

Problem being that Dusan can't be found by any means, physical or mystical. And to be honest, someone really doesn't want him to be found. An investment banker with a tenuous link to Dusan winds up crucified in his office. That said investment banker is also part of the Illuminati isn't helping.

Which of course leads deeper down the rabbit hole, eventually involving a transgender Aborigine who runs a Nightclub in NYC, a hacker extrordinaire, the hacker's girlfriend, a gypsy girl with a touch of the power, and an acidmancer. (We're skipping a whole bunch of plot here, but....) We also get to meet a part fae girl who more or less acts as an intermediary to the gods. She gets a rather good line about discussing fan fiction with Etruscan gods of the harvest. Hell, even the Devil himself shows up at one point.

Based on my own readings into the subject matter, Belcher has done his research quite well into various occult practices of different cultures, which also came across in the Golgotha books. Ultimately, the takeaway here on his system of magic for this book is that will and intent matter much more than any particular system. Mind you, having Google translate handy for some of the Latin phrases Laytham uses as a focusing agent leads to some extra humor in a few places. (As an aside, I have to be amused that the idea of secret Occult knowledge can be found in a mass market paperback. Then again, a book can give you knowledge, but experience is how you learn what it really means.) also, some characters get mentioned who would make interesting additions to later installments, like the Twittermancer, who divines people 140 characters at a time.

Conspiracy theory also plays a large part in much of the plot. While Icke's lizard people don't show up, we get a alot about the Illuminati, the Masons, the US Treasury, 9/11.... In some ways, I felt like I was reading a novelization of someone's hand of Steve Jackson's Illuminati card game.

I enjoyed the ride with this one. It was kind of like reading an American version of a Simon R. Green novel, only with more drugs.