I love comic novels that involve religion. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens and Christopher Moore’s Lamb are permanently in the my top ten favorite novels list. So I really enjoyed The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes. It takes the Faust premise and twists it into a 400 page running gag about heaven, hell, free will, demonic deals, and superheros. I’m really looking forward to the next installments in the series.
The novel opens with a demon trying to convince young Chesney Anstruther to sign a contract and Chesney trying to convince the demon that he summoned it purely by accident. The dispute escalates to the point where Chesney ends up in negotiations with the devil and a representative of heaven with the help of a TV preacher. The upshot of it all is that Chesney gets to moonlight as a superhero for two hours out of twenty four without having to pay the eternal price. The whole thing had me snorting with mirth.
I’ll admit that the middle of the book doesn’t quite match up to the fantastic beginning and thrilling ending, but it’s still a lot of fun reading Chesney’s misadventures trying to be a superhero. (He gets maced by a woman he attempts to save from muggers.) Keeping up the level of hilarity is Chesney’s demonic sidekick, Xaphan, who talks like people did when he was last topside and sounds like a stereotypical gangster from the 1920s. He completely steals the show. Things do drag a bit in the middle while Hughes moves characters into position for the surprisingly thrilling ending.
This was a very, very fun read. I hope the next installments come out soon.