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The Damned Busters (To Hell and Back #1)

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  865 ratings  ·  127 reviews
After accidentally summoning a demon while playing poker, the normally mild-mannered Chesney Anstruther refuses to sell his soul… which leads through various confusions to, well, Hell going on strike. Which means that nothing bad ever happens in the world – and that actually turns out to be a really bad thing.
There’s only one thing for it. Satan offers Chesney the ultimate
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published (first published May 31st 2011)
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An actuary, and one well suited to his job in every way, inadvertently summons a demon while erecting a poker table and hammering his finger. While less than amenable to the idea of selling his soul, especially with incontrovertible proof that there actually is such a thing as eternal damnation, he sets into motion a set of events that has extremely humorous consequences.

To say that the author, Matthew Hughes, can write is like saying...well... I was going to go for some sports analogy, but that
[Advance reader copy – the book is due out at the end of May].

I bounced hard off this one. And it’s not because I read in audio without access to the art. No, we were actually doing really good for the first quarter with the story of a hapless, nerdy (as opposed to geeky, I know my classifications thank you) actuary who accidentally summons a demon and causes a labor strike in hell. It was funny, it was whacky, it was sneakily quite sharp about good and evil, the writing was crisp.

And then the w
Ben Babcock
I have a thing for demon-summoning.

Wait, that didn’t come out right. I don’t have a thing for demon-summoning. As in, I don’t like summoning demons. Actually, I’ve never summoned a demon, but I imagine that if I did summon a demon, I wouldn’t much enjoy it. However, I suppose that there is a small chance that if I do, one day, summon a demon, then I might discover I enjoy it and start off on some kind of demon-summoning kick or addiction. At that point, we could say I have a thing for demon-summ
So, this was an interesting and uneven novel. I've written a lot of reviews, but this is by far the most difficult because I didn't like or dislike the novel. I almost considered not writing a review at all because I was just so ambivalent. Matthews Hughes' The Damned Busters is a wholly original novel from Angry Robot Books. It is not however the novel I wanted to read. Let me explain.

Filled with fun cartoony characters, Hughes pits Chesney Arnstruther, an actuary of no particular distinction,
Joshua Unruh
This is a tough one to review. I suppose uneven is the word to start with. It's almost like two separate stories that don't have much to do with one another except that one is the circumstances by way the other is able to happen. I know, that sounds like it should be connected but it's sorta like using the story of a sperm cell fighting its way to an egg in order to set up my life story. Related, sure, but not exactly the most obvious plot move.

The first quarter of the book is the set up. It has
Ginger Nuts
After accidentally summoning a demon while playing poker, the normally mild-mannered Chesney Anstruther refuses to sell his soul… which leads through various confusions to, well, Hell going on strike. Which means that nothing bad ever happens in the world – and that actually turns out to be a really bad thing.

There’s only one thing for it. Satan offers Chesney the ultimate deal – sign the damned contract, and he can have his heart’s desire. And thus the strangest superhero duo ever seen – in Hel
This book is pretty much just light, irreverent fun. Think along the lines of Good Omens, or something like that. Some of the ideas are fun, though since I've read Good Omens -- and some of Terry Pratchett's other work -- the style and ideas weren't entirely fresh. Still, combining that with the superhero aspect made it more fun, especially for someone who has recently got (back) into comics. I also enjoyed that the superhero character is a number-crunching actuary before he's a superhero, not a ...more
Trevor S
Highly, highly blasphemous (for better or worse) this is a book of great ideas and not so great execution.
Essentially a guy accidently summons a demon, puts hell on strike and makes a deal whereby he gets to become a super hero powered by a demon sidekick. It's an intriguing premise and Hughes fleshes it out with a lot of interesting concepts.
Unfortunately his characters don't fare so well. For the most part the male characters, from the hard boiled police lieutenant to the reborn (and reborn a
Nathan Shumate
Humor is such an individual thing that it won’t surprise me if many people enjoyed The Damned Busters more than I did. Not that I didn’t enjoy it; I thought it was good, if not great. Don’t wanna get involved in grade inflation among book reviews, so can we say three-and-a-half stars out of five?

Chesney, an introverted actuary, accidentally summons a demon (bashed his thumb, bleeds on a five-sided table, and utters a string of nonsense syllables which unfortunately correspond to an invocation —
Lorina Stephens
It’s hard to make me laugh. Call it a personal failing. But it’s true. While other people gasp for air in a fit of jocularity, I’m merely smiling, wondering about the depth of the humour involved. The Damned Busters: To Hell and Back, by Matthew Hughes, is the first time since reading Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans, I actually burst into laughter while reading a book. The title alone was enough to pique my curiosity – an intriguing play on the 1955 British film about WWII RAF dam bombers.

Have you always dreamt of being a superhero? Sure you have. What? You haven't. Well, screw it, go with me on this anyway.

Chesney Armstruther is an actuary for a large insurance firm (if you're a layman like me, that means "statistician") whose life is in a rut. Heck, maybe his life is the rut. Rigidly devoted to numbers and the odds, while at the expense of a social life, Chesney finds poker with a few of the boys to be his best bet at gaining a few friends. But, before he can host his first gam
What an odd novel. A pulpy superhero story and a deal with the devil story.

Our hero made a five sided poker table for he and his poker buddies. He cut himself, gibbered incoherently, and a demon showed up, contract in hand, as an answer to his summons.

See? The poker table was a pentagram. The gibbering was a demonic chant. The blood was there... it was all a big misunderstanding. The rest of the story is how our hero, an actuary with a touch of autism perhaps, no social skills and a history of
I wish it was possible to give something 3.5 stars.

Anyway, the best way I can think to recommend this is: If you liked Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there is a fairly good chance you'll feel the same about this one. The humor is very much in the same vain. The text is straight forward and an easy read, if not a bit lengthy.

Just to give you a bit of an idea: The whole premises is based off of this really ordinary guy who accidentally (truly) summons a demon, refuses to sell his sole, thereb
Gavin Gates
If I could give 2.5 stars then it would have been more accurate.
This is a hard review as it reads like it is two short stories in series put together when they shouldn’t have been. It is an amusing read in places and as a concept a very original take on a simple set up but as with anything that relies on humour as a selling point it comes down to the readers taste and to me, much in the same way as writers like Terry Pratchet, it just did not hit the mark and unfortunately the characters are al
Tyrannosaurus regina
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
So...very tough to decide on a 3 or 4-star rating here. Like many other readers, I must acknowledge that yes, the book did suffer a bit from uneven pacing. This led me to subtract that point and arrive at my 3-star rating. But having said that, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book; I'll be reading the next 2 books in the series to follow the adventures of Chesney (aka The Actionary).

So Chesney inadvertently summons a demon and his reaction is....horror, fear, unholy glee? None of the above. When
Mar 08, 2014 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
I liked this book. Please see my other reviews to understand how rare that is. In fact, I was so taken with it that I immediately hopped onto Amazon and ordered book 2 (Costume Not Included).

I've got a kid now, so sleep is a premium, but I still found myself staying up a bit later than I should have to just read a few more pages. So let's get into the meat of it.

The story is pretty simple: A man accidentally makes a deal with the devil to become a crime fighter, and Hijinks Ensue. You can get th
Hope Smash
I really enjoyed the concept behind this book. A loner actuary strikes a deal with the devil and becomes a super hero. I really liked Chesney as a character, he was believable and very human. I kind of picture him as a young Steve Buschemi. I also really liked his sidekick Xaphan. He added a certain humor to the book. I think the only thing that gave me pause, and made it a 4/5 and not a 5/5 is that it was a little slow going in parts for an action book. I didn't ever feel on the edge of my seat ...more
I got snagged by the cover blurb. The whole accidental-demon-summoning-turned-crimefighting-deal hit a lot of high points for me. The first seventy-odd pages were slow and difficult to get through. From a storytelling standpoint, I understand that it was important to establish Chesney as bland and boring, but I felt like it could have been done a bit quicker.

Once he actually got to the crimefighting part, things picked up. There was some action involved. Chesney was still bland, but it was as a
Jeremy DeBottis
This book was pretty cool. It varies in how interesting and entertaining it is throughout. I could really have given it two, three, or four stars, so obviously landing in the middle for three seems best.

The beginning is fantastic. The basic premise being a man accidentally summons a demon which arrives to make a deal for his soul, and when he refuses to make the deal because it was a big misunderstanding the result is gold. This portion of the book has an amazing mixture of humor and almost a d
Todd Mulholland
Honestly, this book was on it's way to a 4, maybe a 3, until the last 10%.

This book is really two stories that twine around each other. The first is a story of cosmological bent. It tells a theory (in the book world) of God being an author who's trying to figure out how the story should go. It tells of a Hell that's so weighed down by the backlog of temptation and punishment that it's close to breaking.

And it tells the tale of the one accident that breaks it all, and the man at the center of it.
Mild-mannered actuary accidentally summons demon and causes the well-oiled machinery of the afterlife to grind to a halt. With this sort of premise, this story could easily turn to the wacky and ridiculous (think Christopher Moore or Douglas Adams). Instead, I think of this book as more of a cross between The Shadow and The Big Bang Theory. Chesney Arnstruther's character goes beyond mere nerd-dom to a kind of social awkwardness that skirts clinical diagnosis and inspires sympathy rather than hi ...more
Adam Dunnells
I bought The Damned Busters on a whim. I had the cash, it sounded like a good read, all the reasons why we buy books on whims had fallen into place like it had been ordained for me to read this book. I tried reading it the first time, but I couldn't get into it. I had to start over. After forcing myself through the first half of the first chapter, though, I fell in love with this book. The "having to start over" thing is the only that keeps me from giving this book 5 stars.

Unlike what most peopl
This book had one of the most entertaining hooks I've read in a while, and the delivery doesn't disappoint. It's heavily slanted to the comedy, and doesn't take itself seriously, which I really needed after a run of heavy or dull reading. The actuary-cum-crimefighter story, with a good central protagonist and a better sidekick is brilliant. Between comedic style that left me giggling, and the kind of running-pace plot that I like most, I was really bound to enjoy it. Which I did.

A couple of thi
Originally posted on Book chick City

After two pretty lacklustre books, I was in need of a change. So to change things up, I decided to read THE DAMNED BUSTERS. From the very first chapter, I knew that I had made the right choice in picking up this book.

The plot could easily have fallen into the cliché of the hero trying to battle hell to put things right, but the author turns the idea on its head from the get go.

Due to the main characters decision that he won’t sell his soul, the demons go on s
Robert Runte
Matthew Hughes is one of Canada’s best SF writers, and by far the funniest.
In this, his latest romp, he tries his hand at that venerable subgenre, the ‘deal with the devil’.

Now, there are only three ways such stories can go: (1) the traditional Faustian bargain in which the protagonist sells his soul for knowledge and power, realizing too late what is really important; (2) the trick-the-devil folktale in which a Daniel-Webster-type voids the deal on some technicality; or (3) the tricked-by-the
Today’s post is on The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes. It is 413 pages long including an author interview at the end. It is published by Angry Robot Books. The cover is simple cartoon drawing of the characters and how the plot starts. The intended reader is adult who likes comic books heroes, humor, and it is not offended by mocking of religion. There is no language, mention of sexuality, and the raising of demons but nothing in poor taste. The story is told in third person. There Be Spoilers ...more
Also reviewed on the blog:
I was definitely intrigued about this book when I heard about it. Where else can you find a book about an ordinary man summoning a demon by accident who then becomes a superhero?

Yeah, it was a really fun, creative idea for a story that was refreshing to read. It was a fabulously funny story with great ideas about good and evil and it was brilliantly written at times.

But there was a problem for me. The first quarter or so of the b
Sharon Tyler
Damned Busters: To Hell and Back by Matthew Hughes is a fun and thought-provoking novel, which will be released in print on May 31 2001. Chesney Anstruther is a comic book loving, introverted actuary that has been
raised by a very religious mother. Through an unusual set of circumstances, he accidentally summons a demon and through his refusal to bargain away his soul, he triggers a revolution in Hell. With the help of a television evangelist, Chesney makes a deal with the Devil that will let hi

Poker can lead to a great deal of good things in life, it can also lead to a great deal of bad, but in The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes poker lead to the absence of all sin and the formation of the world’s first super hero duo.

Matthew Hughes, in his first book for Angry Robot publishing, pens the story of Chesney Anstruther: a man who accidently summons a demon while setting up for poker. When he refuses to sell his soul Hell goes on strike. Turn out they have a union and it’s
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Born in Liverpool, his family moved to Canada when he was five years old. Married since late 1960s, he has three grown sons. He is currently relocated to Britain. He is a former director of the Federation of British Columbia Writers.

A university drop-out from a working poor background, he worked in a factory that made school desks, drove a grocery delivery truck, was night janitor in a GM dealersh
More about Matthew Hughes...

Other Books in the Series

To Hell and Back (3 books)
  • Costume Not Included
  • Hell to Pay

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“a blossom past its perfection, shedding petals like a sad metaphor” 4 likes
“Yes," said Hardacre, "but it's not real. We're not real. And when the story is all told, when He writes 'The End' at the bottom of the last page, then all this will wrap up. No more Hell, no more Heaven, no more angels, devils, saints or sinners. The story's done. It will be as if we never were” 3 likes
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