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Monday, December 31, 2007

"Lye Street" by Alan Campbell

Order “Lye StreetHERE

One of the earliest reviews that I ever wrote for Fantasy Book Critic was for Alan Campbell’s debut “Scar Night” (Reviewed HERE). Looking back on it, it probably seems like I didn’t like the book very much, but in reality, I loved the concept, loved the imagination, and was just disappointed because I thought the novel could have been so much better. Regardless, the sequel to “Scar Night”, titled “Iron Angel” (April 29, 2008)—also known as “Penny Devil” (May 2, 2008) in the UK—remains one of my most anticipated releases of the New Year, and to help alleviate the waiting time for the follow-up, Mr. Campbell has graced us with “Lye Street” (January 8, 2008)...

Lye Street” is a 135 page novella exclusively available from
Subterranean Press in two unique, limited editions—a fully cloth bound hardcover signed by the author (numbered to 2000) and a signed leatherbound copy housed in a custom traycase (numbered to 26). Cover artwork is provided by Dave McKean—longtime Neil Gaiman collaborator (The Sandman, Hellblazer) and noted CD cover artist (Tori Amos, Stabbing Westward, Fear Factory)—while the wonderful interior illustrations are done by the award-winning Bob Eggleton.

One of the best things about “Scar Night” was the thrilling prologue which first introduced the demonic Carnival, a deranged and immortal angel who feeds on the blood of victims every ‘scar night’. “Lye Street” is the prequel to that prologue and ends just where “Scar Night” begins. Since Carnival was one of my favorite characters from the book, I found the novella to be particularly satisfying especially because we get to delve a bit deeper into the renegade angel’s intriguing madness. Specifically, we discover that in addition to the ritual ‘scar night’ slayings, Carnival has also been regularly murdering the descendants of a certain family every fifty years for five generations. Sal Greene is the next target on that list, but the old prospector isn’t going without a fight…he’s hired a phantasmacist to summon the demon Basilis—formerly Ayen’s Hound Master and Heaven’s Lord of Warfare—to kill the scarred angel. Alas, plans never go quite the way you expect them to, and Sal soon finds himself on a strange quest to free the demon’s physical aspects from the memories of his hounds. Meanwhile, Presbyter Scrimlock has learned of Carnival’s vendetta against the Bucklestrappe family and uses that knowledge to set a trap to destroy the angel once and for all…

Writing a novella or short story is obviously different from writing a long-form novel, especially one that’s part of a series, and not every writer can pull it off. Fortunately, Alan Campbell seems to have a knack for the format and delivers a story that was well-written, fun and interesting—it’s kind of like a gothic, grown-up fairy tale that Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton would cook up—featuring the visually arresting imagery of the city Deepgate and a macabre sense of humor that reminded me of Steven Erikson’s Bauchelain & Korbal Broach novellas. In fact, I was really surprised by how amusing the novella could be at times, which was something that “Scar Night” lacked, and I’d love to see more of that same wit in the sequel :)

In the end, I really enjoyed “Lye Street”. Part of it of course is returning to the unforgettable world of Deepgate and learning more about Carnival, but also a lot of the problems that plagued the debut are nowhere to be found, and in a couple of areas, the novella actually excels over the book. So, if you were a fan of “Scar Night”, I’m pretty confident that you’ll like “Lye Street”, which is an excellent companion piece to Mr. Campbell’s debut while whetting our appetites until the release of “Iron Angel/Penny Devil”. And if you haven’t read “Scar Night” yet, then no worries because “Lye Street” is also the perfect introduction to author Alan Campbell and the Deepgate Codex


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Carl V. said...

I ordered this from Subterranean Press and can't wait to get it.

Robert said...

Carl, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it :) Happy New Year!

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