Review: Gods and Monsters – Unclean Spirits / Author: Chuck Wendig / Publisher: Angry Robot Books / Release Date: Out Now
The name Chuck Wendig is usually a guarantee of quality; he excels at horror tales that evoke the vastness of the American landscape and existential desolation, and his latest novel meets (and exceeds) expectations. Gods and Monsters: Unclean Spirits can be lazily described a grittier version of American Gods, but despite a similar premise, it’s a very different beast. The novel revolves around a chap called Casson Cole. Thanks to some bad life decisions, this poor fellow has found himself the indentured servant of a supernatural being, and has lost everything in a damning and complete way.
Luck, it seems, intervenes and the protagonist is freed from bondage and embarks upon a quest to get back everything he lost, including his estranged family. Unfortunately for Cole, the supernatural isn’t done with him yet, and a twisted pantheon of forgotten gods sees him as little more than a chess piece. Unclean Spirits is a lesson in how to write for the growing godpunk subgenre; take a world in which the ancient deities are still active in the affairs of man and then boil out the hope. Wendig brings the reader to a world filled with unicorns and wizards, and then applies his touch of evil to everything, making this a nightmare place filled with blood and consequences.
Those looking for the same sort of spark as the author’s Miriam Black books should be aware that the pace and tone is quite different here; the easy flowing narrative style is still present but the main character doesn’t carry the tale with the same sort of charm. Instead we get lots of scenes that go for the shock factor and the gross-out, there’s plenty of visceral horror here and though it never breaks the flow of the story, it does become punctuation after a while. Those looking for a godpunk fix, though, or just a spot of adventure horror will find this very entertaining.