Science fiction and fantasy
666 Charing Cross Road
by Paul Magrs
Jack has his own relationship doubts. His handsome new lover Ricardo has moved in, but Jack is afraid he's fallen in with the wrong crowd at a time when that means fangs and murder rather than simply bad clothes and too much booze.
666 Charing Cross Road is full of the kind of subtle humour and character-driven storytelling that Paul Magrs has made his hallmark. The novel is populated with down to earth old women (who may happen to be familiar with dark magic), intense gay men, and quirky young people who work in shops or galleries. This abundance of everyday, likeable characters thrust into crazy situations is very similar to the Brenda and Effie books, perhaps even too similar. The plot is also somewhat obvious, not least because the prologue gives a lot away. I'm not a fan of the technique of taking a dramatic episode from late in the story and putting it right at the start to jazz things up a bit: not only does it act as a massive spoiler, it's also insulting to readers. It's like saying "you don't have the patience to read all of this, so here's the sauce first of all". But if that were true, why bother writing the first half of the book at all?
However it's the bits without blood and mayhem that are the most interesting parts of this story. It's Daniel and Shelley's tense relationship, his manipulations and her doubts, and the interaction between family members and new friends, that gives the novel its appeal. That's why this is a quick and engaging read, even though it builds fairly slowly towards a showdown between the undead and the forces of good.
The vampires in question are a slightly different breed than usual: they walk in daylight and aren't much put out by crosses and garlic, although they do take some time to turn from human to vampire. They're indiscriminate feeders, and they multiply like rabbits. The result isn't so much slasher as slapstick. Put together with all the perceptive dialogue and engaging character interplay it makes for an amusing occult frolic.
11th October 2011
If you like this, try:iZombie: Repossession by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred
A smart zombie tries to sort out her love life, but it's more complicated than usual when the world is about to end. The fourth iZombie graphic novel.
Review © Ros Jackson
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