Ginger Nuts of Horror
I recently watched Predator with my teenage daughter. I hadn’t actually seen it since the ‘90s but I thought it was still a fantastic movie. Imagine how I felt and how taken aback I was when my daughter later asked me if all the men in action films - "back in the day" - were so over the top? Forced to reply in the affirmative, I received the 'eye-roll of death' and I was left feeling embarrassed at enjoying such a display of overt machismo.
Cthulhu Armageddon had much the same effect on me.
C. T. Phipps has created an interesting contribution to the Cthulhu mythos here. He is a self-professed gamer who has utilised his comprehensive knowledge of the role-playing game, Call of Cthulhu, to produce a novel that clearly shows its influence throughout. Fans of Mad Max, The Dark Tower and the computer game franchise Fallout will feel right at home with the post-apocalyptic setting of this story.
Cthulhu Armageddon is the first in a series of novels that are set a century after the great old ones such as Cthulhu, Hastur and Nyarlathotep have risen from their watery resting places. They have remade the Earth to better suit themselves, after nearly wiping out the whole of humanity in the process. The chief protagonist of the story is John Henry Booth, an elite ranger for the United States remnant and an overall badass with a level of masculinity that would make Schwarzenegger blush. The tale is a classic one of vengeance and retribution with Booth hunting the mad scientist/ arcane sorcerer Ward who plans to remove the problem of humans once and for all. Helping Booth on his travels are a range of supporting characters that includes a woefully underused, centuries-old ghoul who provided both comic relief and an interesting link to the world before it fell.
The issue of supporting characters now brings me to my main critique of the novel. The author’s female characters are, without exception, terribly one dimensional. In fact, his portrayal of women came across as quite immature - with every female encountering Booth falling in love and acting quite irrationally. At times their lack of character development meant I had to stop and check which person was in dialogue with Booth. Hopefully, as the series progresses that might change and I sincerely hope it does.
While I did have some gripes with the novel, I can say I rather enjoyed it. It’s a welcome addition to the mythos and I'm also looking forward to reading the second novel in the series. After all, there's always room for a little bit of machismo in our lives.
“Under an alien sky where gods of eldritch matter rule, the only truth is revenge.” CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters). John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and suspicion he’s “tainted.” Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends. It’s the one thing he has left.
So once upon a time there was this guy. He meant well. Or at least...51% well over 49% ill. On average he meant well. And then he made a mistake. One teensy, tiny little mistake. But clearly not one that shifted the balance the other direction. Clearly he's still a good guy. Who at least still means well.
One teensy, tiny little mistake after another, and he's not sure where he is anymore. Did he mean well? Or ill? Or something else? Is ANY of this his fault? Surely not all of it is his fault...
You've read that story before; it's the classic tale of a life gone wrong. Almost always, for reasons that vary from book to book, it was already going wrong anyway, before the monsters and uncanny stepped in.
What sets The Boulevard Monster apart is the warmth that fills the pages. Unlike many of the anti-heroes that carry out their own self-destruction, aided by the supernatural, bad luck, and Very Bad Men, our hero Seth Fowler is actually, genuinely likable, not just a self-justifying jerk of an unreliable narrator. He spends his time caring for other people, trying to make their lives a little easier. He has fond and even delightful memories of the past; he is grounded in solid realities rather than ambition and drive. When the time comes for him to make an ethical choice (at the very beginning of the book), he makes it without hesitation: in fact it's his ethical choice that gets him in trouble. When he digs himself deeper and deeper into gray and then black areas of morality, you know that he's making a very clear-cut choice between bad and worse. The mistakes he makes are the ones that we all make every day, out of the desire to help our loved ones, or prevent them from coming to harm. And his family is actually worth it.
This is no whiny, self-centered character who you secretly wish would get a two-by-four-sized clue stick to the side of the head. This is a genuinely nice guy, which gives the classic tale a lot more impact than I expected. I couldn't hold myself back and go, "Well, if only he'd admitted that he was wrong here, here, and here, then he would never be in this place." There was never a moment where I could say that. The actions that the character take throughout the novel have nothing but admiration and sympathy from me. Even during Seth's worst moment, I went, "Ahhhhh...I'd have at least been tempted."
The ending, in my opinion, nailed it. I'd like to see more in this universe, too. Recommend.
CLICK HERE TO READ DEANNA'S INTERVIEW WITH JEREMY
I KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD ABOUT ME
You say that I am a madman. You say that I am dangerous. You say that I am the one who has been abducting women, slaughtering them, and burying their corpses all around this city for years. You are wrong, because only part of that statement is true…
I AM NOT A KILLER
I know that you probably won’t believe me. Not now. Not after all that has happened, but I need to tell my side of the story. You need to know how this all began. You need to hear about the birds, but most of all, you need to understand…
I AM NOT THE BOULEVARD MONSTER
DeAnna Knippling is a writer and editor of dark speculative fiction, mystery, and horror. She has ghostwritten over a million words since 2013, and has had multiple short stories published in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Black Static, and more. She's currently working on a series of cheesy 80s horror novels involving fairies. The first novelette, By Dawn's Bloody Light, about three women who take revenge on a serial killer, will be released July 1. You can find out more at www.WonderlandPress.com. You can also find her on Facebook andTwitter.
REVIEW BY GEORGE ILLET ANDERSON
The Bold and the Bristly