Tuesday, 1 November 2011

'Kultus' - Richard Ford

Kultus is one of the few books I found while browsing the Solaris Books web site. The cover is very eye catching, and seems to make a lot of promises. A bald man looking through a key, and his eye appears very demonic. The man is heavily muscled and covered in arcane tattoos. To me that says demons and violence. The screaming demonic faces in the background is also a hint. Turn the book around and the blurb says the same thing. Solaris Books very kindly provided me with a review copy of Kultus.

I like it when a book just drops me straight into the plot without giving me any background information at all. This is exactly what Richard Ford has done with Kultus. A man, in a dingy apartment, is struggling to keep his last meal down and himself on his feet. He has just completed a summoning of a demon. The demon has given him instructions. Find the key. After the first couple of pages all we know is the name of this man, Thaddeus Blaklok. It seems like, the less I know, the more I want to know. Not knowing is a very compelling reason for turning the page, and in Kultus there is a lot I don't know yet.

 Quite quickly we learn that Thaddeus is a tough guy, who gets what he wants. Usually by force. I suspect he is part bulldog. Once he sets his mind to something, there is no stopping him. In order to find the key he quite happily knocks on doors and heads. He really is as fearless as he is a mystery, and the more I find out about him, the more I like him. Thaddeus Blaklok reminds me a lot of Hellboy, but without the tail and horns. Hellboy might have his demonic strength, but Thaddeus is just too bullheaded to know defeat, and he is not exactly a sissy either. Both are dirty fighters, but they fight for the right reasons.

Thaddeus is not the only one interested in the key though. Several other even more ruthless parties are after it, and together with Thaddeus they leave a mess. Amelia is the Indigator, a constable in The Manufactory, assigned to the murder of a Nobleman, known for his depraved interests and possible cult connections. She is a more by the books person than Thaddeus, but she is at least as ruthless as him. It's not clear what drives Thaddeus, another mystery, but Amelia is easier to figure out. A perfectionist, who is working ten times as hard as everyone else just because she is a woman. She is also a damn good investigator, and has some good help in her two henchmen, who do the cracking of heads for her.

Richard Ford lets his characters keep a lot of secrets, and the same goes for his world. We are again, given a minimum of information about the place and its history. He just lets the characters and the plot drive the access of information. When we really need to know something, it is delivered to us in a non-intrusive way.

In Kultus we are treated to some good world building. It's mostly a fantasy/steampunk setting, with the existence of magic and demons. The only part of the world we see is a city, The Manufactory, where the entire story takes place. It's interesting place, so I have no problem with that. It's a lovely mixture of seedy underworld and rich, corrupt nobles. My favorite element was the Repository of Unnatural History, which I thought was a very fun and clever idea.

Richard Ford unfortunately stabs himself in the foot with his quill. Thaddeus Blaklok is explained as a dangerous man, who one should not mess with. His actions does not quite live up to his reputation, which probably makes the book more interesting. No fun reading about a superman who easily overcomes everything without effort. It did nag me however how he repeatedly got captured and overmanned by his foes. There is only so many times a plot mechanism works without losing its effectiveness. It's a mere flesh wound though, and Kultus is still a good book.

I'm happy to recommend Kultus to anyone who enjoys a good action book. The chapters are short, efficient and always ends with a reason to keep reading. It really was a very entertaining, action packed and fun read. Thaddeus Blaklok is good character. He is not just a ham-fisted brute, he is also surprisingly funny and easy to sympathise with. A get things done man! I will certainly pick up any future books about him.

Kultus weighs in at 285 pages, and is published by Solaris Books.

Recommendation: read

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