(Earthlight, £6.99, 378 pages, paperback, published 5 June 2002.)
Richard Calder's ninth book, Lord Soho, is a sequelto his decadent adventure novel, Malignos. In Malignos, Richard Pike, with the help of Espiritu Santo, a sword that is really a powerful being from another dimension, journeyed into the demon-infested bowels of the Earth in order to rescue his one great love, herself a demon.
In a series of stories originally serialized in the British fiction magazine Interzone, Lord Soho follows the travails of the future generations of Richard Pikes, all named after their heroic ancestor, all descended from the human/demon marriage of the first Richard Pike and his demon lover, Gala.
Throughout Lord Soho, the petty and self-involved Pikes aspire to nobility and do everything they can to attain it. They are socially tainted because of their half-demon ancestry and all live in the shadow of the original Pike's legendary deeds. They must also come to terms with their demonic heritage and their symbiotic link to Espiritu Santo.
Calder has a history of favouring unsympathetic protagonists, and Lord Soho is no exception. Pike's descendants are a whiny, egocentric lot who have inherited his self-loving vanity, with neither their patriarch's chutzpah or passion. The original Pike's roguish charm imbued Malignos with an emotional focus that Lord Soho lacks.
Calder refuses to romanticize or glorify his characters' unpleasantness, or even to be judgmental towards them. He invents repulsive characters and presents them with neither love nor contempt. Readers must deal with their reactions to his creations on their own.
Where Calder is passionate is with the baroque and perverse qualities he invests into his fantastical settings. Calder's bizarre imagination and idiosyncratic prose style provide the momentum, perversely seducing with their fetishistic overindulgences.
Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction
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© Claude Lalumière 21 September 2002, 12 April 2003