Monday, December 29, 2014

How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce

 I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book. It was billed as Fantasy, but it just barely qualifies, even as Urban Fantasy - more urban than fantasy. Nevertheless, it was a very well-written and entertaining, in a very British and sarcastic manner, at least for a while, after which it became a little dark for my taste, though still eminently readable.

William Heaney works for the government. Not as some sort of secret agent or occult investigator, but merely a middle management functionary who attends endless meetings and serves on multiple committees. He does, however, have a heart for the downtrodden, and manifests his support by donating heavily to a shelter in London called GoPoint, run by a saintly woman named Antonia. Oddly, the source of his large gifts is a mildly illicit scam that he and his friends, Stynx and Jaz, together run on book collectors, selling them counterfeit antique books.

William has been dealing in antique books since his college days, which is when he became inadvertently involved in the results of a ritual that left him able to perceive the "demons" who flock around humans, though few others around him can see them.

"I had no intention of visiting it (GoPoint's library). Firstly, GoPoint was infested with demons for obvious reasons...It was while they were out of the building seeking purpose that the demons became most active in their prowling, relentless search for a new host. Secondly, demons do tend to cluster around the yellowing pages and cracked spines of second-hand books. I've no idea why."

A neat turn of phrase here and there, such as,

"I think that was when I first learned the glorious cost-free feeling of righteousness that comes with defending other people's reputations."

"What was all this gibberish about fun? Fun wasn't really something I went in for. Fun and I had parted company on the high road of life at about the time my hair started to thin and my knee joints lost all compression, quick handshake, no fuss, farewell."


"My heart sank. Well, not quite sank, but took on water, gurgled, listed to one side, tried to recover steam."

William likes to drink his red wine. He's a bit of a connoisseur. I like how Joyce describes his tipple as,

"a beaker of the rubicund relief and rescue" and "red-robed oblivion".

So, the book seems to meander about, sightseeing through London on its way to a semi-sweet conclusion, as Heaney fights with his ex-wife, deals with his non-resident children, tries to keep the latest scam from falling apart, gets involved in a "terrorist" bombing, and fights against "the fraudulent demon of falling in love" when he meets Yasmin, who may have the ability to pull him out of his bureaucratic rut, in the end.

What it is not, is fantasy, even though Charles deLint says it's so. A good enough story, but not quite my (English Breakfast) cup of tea.

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