(2014) Charlie Human, Century, £13.99, trdpbk, 295pp, ISBN 978-1-780-89132-3
Just when you thought it was safe to resume your old life, not that Baxter Zevcenko ever had much of what you would call a normal life anyway, besides if he can't slip into the old routine, surely he bask in the glory of having saved the world? Can't he? Not really as he too busy attending sessions of Pornography Anonymous, seeing several psychologists and taking lots of drugs, some of which he has actually been prescribed. Then he's sent to Hexpoort, a magical training school that is part reformatory and part military school (the sort of thing that Bill and Ted tried to avoid). It is just like Hogwarts actually except for added sex, drugs, and not rock and roll, just better internet access. Actually, it is nothing like Hogwarts, think more of a fantastical prison, or hard-labour camp. Baxter might be a descendent of an ancient Boer mystic and a giant shape-shifting crow, but he's actually pretty useless at magic, at least consciously, which makes him stand out like a sore thumb at Hexpoort and attract the unwanted attention of the school bully who is also the Chosen One, and carries a very distinctive scar on his face.
Previously billed as the antidote to Harry Potter, this one cannot escape inevitable comparisons given the magic school setting, the Chosen One motif and some characters who come across as Human's version of Draco Malfoy et al, although there were never any pupils at Hogwarts like conjoined twins Faith and Chastity, nor a head of school like the Red Witch or her deputy head, the Shadow Boer, who comes across like an old-fashioned Victorian strongman, complete with handlebar moustache who believes that those who attend the school should be physically strong in order to be great sorcerers, and boy does he work them. Even Baxter becomes a bit of jock while developing the 'remarkability' of being a 'Dreamwalker' and getting an animal companion as well. There's even a 1970s funk band called 'Psychosexual Development' who turn up during the proceedings.
And just when things are beginning to settle down and Baxter accepts that he is a small fish in a big pond and all the things he was involved in previously when he was top of the heap are run so much slickly, so much professionally here by others, the school is under attack and Baxter must turn to that alcoholic homeless Viking and sometime bounty hunter, Jackson 'Jackie' Ronin for help.
Like Apocalypse Now Now, Kill Baxter boasts another great cover by Joey Hifi, showing Baxter standing proud while a serpent with the head of a hyena entwines his body and he is surrounded by a collection of shaman, werewolves, a two-headed babe, various nasties: some monstrous, some undead, and even scarier, some undead wielding semi-automatic weapons. Now, there's a frightening development!
Packed with great scene-setting, memorable characters, Kill Baxter is a book that is funnier, surreal-er (if that's a word), more brutal and totally bonkers than its predecessor, especially when Baxter dreamwalks through his own dreams to reveal just how mixed up he is. It is still a case of welcome back Baxter, and here's to another adventure saving the world from another apocalypse – you wait for ages for an apocalypse to come along and maybe they'll turn up in threes, just like buses. Fingers crossed.
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