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Friday, July 6, 2007

"The Devil You Know" by Mike Carey

Official Mike Carey Website
Orbit’s Mike Carey Website
Order “The Devil You Know” (US Version) HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview With Mike Carey

Published last year in the UK via Orbit, “The Devil You Know” – the debut novel from Mike Carey, a celebrated comic book writer known for his work on Marvel’s Ultimate Fantastic Four and X-Men, “Hellblazer” & the Eisner Award-nominated “Lucifer” from the DC imprint Vertigo, and such Neil Gaiman-related projects as “Sandman Presents” & “Neverwhere”, – is finally coming stateside thanks to Grand Central Publishing and is a rousing new entry in the world of urban fantasy.

In a genre that has become oversaturated in recent years with second and third-rate carbon copies looking to feed off the successes of more popular series such as Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels, “The Devil You Know” is quite a breath of fresh air. Sure, at a glance there may seem to be a lot of similarities: the contemporary setting where the paranormal has become a part of everyday life; the down-on-your-luck main character who narrates in a first-person perspective; the blending of horror, crime noir & humor elements; and so on. Yet, these would only be superficial observations, and if you were to take a closer look at what “The Devil You Know” brings to the table, it becomes pretty apparent that Mr. Carey has imbued the material with his own unique stamp.

For starters, Mike Carey is an experienced writer, especially at setting the ambiance, fleshing out complex characters/plots and delivering snappy dialogue. Just read any of the writer’s comic works, specifically “Lucifer” or “Hellblazer”, for an excellent example. Obviously writing a novel is much different from writing a comic book, but Mr. Carey makes it look easy in “The Devil You Know”, which is an impressive debut that really showcases the author’s better qualities – the city of London is brought keenly to life in all of its gloomy splendor; Felix Castor, reminiscent somewhat of John Constantine from the Hellblazer books, is a wonderfully flawed protagonist who is easy to root for and will endear a lot of readers with his biting commentary & amusing metaphors; side characters, apart from a few stereotypes and a couple of underdeveloped ones, are nearly as fascinating, particularly the conspiracy-theorist zombie Nicky and the flippant Cheryl; the pacing, aside from some lulls towards the beginning and middle area of the book, is gripping; and the story, which Mr. Carey does a good job of executing, is quite entertaining, particularly the scene-stealing black humor that permeates the book courtesy of Mr. Castor, though there’s plenty of supernatural action, gritty violence/sexuality, coarse language, a noirish mystery, and even some profoundly tender moments that add to “The Devil You Know’s” textured flavor.

Now, since “The Devil You Know” is the first in a series of Felix Castor adventures – “Vicious Circle” (Book Two) is out now in the UK, while “Dead Men’s Boots” (Book Three) is due out in September, – don’t expect to know everything by the time you finish the novel. Sure, the main plot of the book is largely wrapped up and the payoff is not disappointing, but more than anything, “The Devil You Know” is an introductory piece to Felix’s world. For instance, readers will get to learn about the different manifestations of the dead, which includes ghosts, zombies and loup-garou (spirits that possess an animal host; more commonly known as were-wolves), as well as meet up with a demon and a succubus. As to what allows the souls of the dead to return as they do, in the forms that they do, and what happens to them when they are exorcised, is one of the great mysteries of the series, which will no doubt be explored in future volumes. Additionally, I believe the Breath of Life movement – a grassroots pressure group campaigning for changes in the law governing the risen dead – will play a larger role in the books to come, and I hope to see more of Rafi (Felix’s friend who is possessed by the demon Asmodeus), get further insights into Felix’s friend/landlord Pen and his preacher brother Matty (both of whom were barely developed in the book), revisit with Nicky & Cheryl (a possible love interest?), and learn even more about Mr. Castor’s dark past. Now, there is at least one unexpected character who is definitely returning in “Vicious Circle” that will present some major complications in Felix’s life, not to mention provide some pretty interesting developments, but to reveal more would ruin the surprise ;). So, let me just conclude by saying that if you’re a fan of supernatural thrillers, urban fantasy or whatever the genre may be called, but you’re in the mood for something a little edgier, fresher and more cathartic, then I would highly recommend “The Devil You Know”, the start of a promising new series that is going to turn a lot of heads by the time Mike Carey is through with it…


Mailyn said...

Can't WAIT to get my hands on this. Thanks for the heads up!

Sarah said...

I love these kind of books and I'm always on the lookout for new authors to try. Can't wait to check it out!

Reanimated said...

I am also pumped up for this one. Sounds very cool.


Robert said...

I'm glad everyone is looking forward to this book. It's a good one, but from what I hear, the sequels are even better :D

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