I recently finished Chuck Wendig's addition to the Gods and Monsters line, Unclean Spirits. Wanna hear me talk about it? I knew that you would.
First I will approach the setting, as this is a shared universe in which stories by many authors will likely be told. The gods have come to Earth and strapped on human flesh. The representatives of the world's myriad pantheons are having to deal with the ultimate in 'forced relocation'. There was a good spread of deities in this book that incorporates Greek, Native American, African and even ancient Sumarian mythos. I like how this is handled, with each god retaining elements of their
original sphere of influence while still having to play at being human. There is a lot of potential here and I'm excited to see what will be done with it.
The main character in this tale is Cason Cole in the role of 'man struggling to reclaim his past'. He was well developed and I found that I was given just enough information about his past to keep me interested without getting bogged down in the details. The sections where dialogue fills in the exposition or backstory feel pretty organic and Cason's own thoughts are quite revealing in the more action-focused moments. That balance can be difficult to strike and I give Chuck kudos for it. Cason's family remain on the periphery of the story but they introduce us to two of my favorite characters so I can forgive their initial inaction. The primary villain's mannerisms were chilling and I think they'd be that way even without cosmic power at their fingertips. Well crafted characters all around, even in the smaller parts.
Anyone who has read a Chuck Wendig novel before will find a familiar voice waiting for them here. The story jumps from a brisk run to a breakneck sprint several times, sometimes giving you warning and sometimes jumping on your back and hammering you in the head without notice. The violence is well balanced, revealing a clear tableau of pain without dwelling unnecessarily on gore (though I am a fan of splatter horror films so YMMV on this). As I write this I am still able to bring up the images my mind created when I read about dying gods and creepy just doesn't cut it.
So, complaints? Well, I do have a couple. Cason's wife, while a significant part of the development of the story, just doesn't seem to do a whole lot. After an early moment of badassery I had high hopes anytime a chapter about her appeared. I admit, we do get to meet some awesome deities through her sections but she really feels like a passenger through most of the book. That is actually quite appropriate given her circumstances but it made it difficult to invest myself in her character. Kind of like Barbara from the original Night of the Living Dead, she just seems to sit on the couch and cry through most of the story.
Then there is the ending. No, this is not a "the ending was crap" situation. I actually really liked the ending and how things came together. I just felt like there was a little more story to tell before THE END popped up on the screen. Another chapter of follow up would have done wonders for my sense of completion, though as far as hooking us for another installment I suppose the route Chuck went is the better option. Any good book will leave you wanting more but in this case things just felt a bit incomplete. This could relate back to my desire to see more from the family but for some reason I just wanted a bit more.
So what am I saying? Gods and Monsters Unclean Spirits is a solid introduction into what I hope will be an extensive line of books. Well paced with good characterization and a healthy dose of the old ultraviolence, exactly what I expect when I pick up a Wendig novel. It doesn't exactly touch the bar he's set for me with his Miriam Black series but it was a damn fine read that kept me turning pages until there were none left to turn. If you like power mad gods, explosions, betrayal and internal strife I think you'll dig what this book has to offer.