(2012) Sarah Pinborough, Gollancz, hrdbk, £14.99, 384pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08954-9
Want to know what a dog-faced god is? Then read this book, because Sarah Pinborough has finally let those dogs out, big-style. It's the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning, because 'the First has woken' so warns the cover of The Chosen Seed, the third of Sarah Pinborough's 'Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy following on from A Matter of Blood and The Shadow and the Soul, and I am glad to have been able to read them all, but sad in a good way that the trilogy has drawn to a close.
For the uninitiated, Detective Inspector Cass Jones is trying to save the life of nephew, Luke, who has been kidnapped, which isn't easy when you are on the run having been framed for several murders by the mysterious Mr. Bright who heads up the equally mysterious organisation called The Network. It also isn't easy when your former colleagues discover some clues that might prove your innocence but they are ordered to bury the evidence, and possibly you along with it, and given that you are suffering from a gunshot wound ending up being dead might not be as difficult as it sounds.
This third book moves beyond the pace and confines of the previous two, moving away from the cosiness (in relative terms) of the police procedural and focuses more on Jones. He is down, but not out, but has some home truths to take on board about his role in the grand scheme of things. Not only his place in that scheme, but Luke's and Mr. Bright and a few others. It might be too much to state that Pinborough has carved out new ground in the horror field, regardless of how entertaining this series has been. While there have always been great crime/horror crossover novels over the years they have tended to be one-off, stand-alone books, while there are a variety of series that have jumped the shark a long time ago and gone on well past their sell-by date with an almost invincible main character. No spoilers here, but “'The Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy is better written than some of the other series that fill the bookshelves, and more plausible. It reminds me of early Kim Newman (with his Derek Leech character and his novel The Quorum) and Mike Carey's Felix Castor series and the best of some of the John Constantine comics. Expect Pinborough to go platinum when the books come out in the States.
The beauty of this series is not only the writing, the characterisation, the plotting, but the worldview that Pinborough has developed. Better known in some circles for her previously American published horror novels, this isn't just horror, this is also science fiction, with a near-future dystopian setting, complete with financial collapse and a deadly virus known as Strain ll racing through the population combining with a religious end of days take on things and a possible X-Files-ish alien conspiracy added into the mix, not forgetting a liberal dose or two of cosmic horror. All of that might sound rather messy and not very original, but you would be very mistaken for thinking that, and making a big mistake if you don't read this book – but – you have to read the first two of the trilogy first, and if you already have then you will be more than happy to devour this one. Oh, and did I mention that it is 375 pages long with 48 chapters if you count the prologue and epilogue, which means 11 out of 10 from me. Recommended.
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