(Earthlight, £6.99, 442 pages, paperback; published 3 September 2001; ISBN 0-7434-0895-0.)
Richard Calder's eighth novel, Impakto, explodeswith vivid contrasts. It is a work of beauty, yet its characters are revolting in both appearance and behaviour. It is filled with spectacular action, yet its pacing is almost painfully slow. It is blasphemous, yet it yearns for religious transcendence.
Calder's previous novels -- all science fiction -- were set in strange futures; Impakto, his first fantasy novel, is set in the present. The author's peculiar use of language, a baroque blend of religious imagery and decadent poetry, usually so suited to evoking his weird settings, is somewhat undermined by present-day cultural references (to popular video games, for example). The real world and Calder's imagination do not mingle well.
Because of these jarring moments, Calder's ornate language does not, in this case, always serve his novel. Instead of sensuously drowning in his prose, I wanted him to get on with the story. This is only a caveat, however. For the most part, Impakto is a fascinating novel. Its premise is intriguing, its characters are unexpected, and its twists are unpredictable.
Raul Riviera, orphaned in his youth, encounters a strange creature on a plane flight to the Philippines: an Impakto -- a man grown from an abandoned foetus. The Impakto's body is possessed by a legion of demons who give him fearsome supernatural powers. The human soul and the demons are at war for control of the body.
The encounter with this Impakto forever changes Riviera's life. He will discover unwelcome truths about his own life, visit otherworldly dimensions, wage war against gods and demons, suffer unwanted metamorphoses, and be overcome by perverse lusts.
Impakto may be somewhat flawed, but it is still a bold and impressive creation.
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© Claude Lalumière 2 March 2002, 12 April 2003