Monday, January 20, 2014

Borrowing devil music

Book: Southern Gods

Author: John Hornor Jacobs

Published: 2011 (Night Shade Books)

Pages: 266 

A little bit of context before I get into how this book managed to surpass lengths to disappoint me – my favorite Cowboy Bebop episode is “Sympathy for the Devil,” Eric Clapton and John Mayer make me angry because they are amazing blues guitarists but only ever decide to record absolute schlock, I wrote this post for my library outside of my regular job there, and a major goal in my life is to learn how to use a guitar slide like a sixty-year-old bluesman and not a two-day-old robot still getting used to its disproportionate finger.

So. Point being, I’m all for stories that delve into the devil creeping around and stealing souls in brooding sexy music, especially in times and places when this stuff was just getting on the radar and everybody was still uneasy about how it made them feel. That was a great setup for this, where a thug-for-hire is supposed to track down a guy whose music can melt every listener’s soul to the nasty parts and get them going at each other in a mass death orgy. Great start!

Then, we get into the family shit, and I realize most people feel a lot more strongly about family bonds than I do, but this goes beyond leaning on arbitrary bonds as a shortcut for emotional empathy. No, see, I could understand that if the characters transcended stereotypes (strong woman! Beaten but now strong woman! Innocent child! Dying bitch of a mother!), or if something actually happened instead of all the action coming from studying pieces of evidence real hard and jumping to conclusions that happen to be right.

And the characters get to the bloody, climactic sacrifice right after it happens. Literally. But just in time to (spoiler alert) save the little girl! I mean, well, patch her back together, at least.

I wanted this to be so much better than it was. The writing was clunky and the story didn’t end up making it easier to get through. Sigh. This will go back to the friend who lent it to me in what I call our Godly Exchange of Books – I lent him American Gods, which actually has a decent amount in common with this as far as the quest to stop an epic sacrifice by some crazy-ass evil, but does it better.

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