David Katzman's Reviews > Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
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's review
Apr 08, 2012

did not like it
Recommended for: nobody

Dreadful. I knew I was going to throw in the towel after about 30 pages, but I kept going until page 65 because I wanted to give it a reasonable chance. I was in the mood for some gothic wit, some charming amorality, and some evocative darkness. Fail, on all accounts. It wasn’t witty. The plot was contrived. The writing was forced and awkward. And the main character was neither charming nor witty. In fact, he was stiff and boring. Here is the dead-on insight I had about this book:
Sometimes while I'm reading, descriptive phrases or concepts that I will use in my review will burst into my head (it’s not that I’m formulating my final opinion but that critical thoughts are sparked as I go along, both positive and negative) and soon after I had begun reading The Necromancer, I thought … this book is constructed like a video game. It starts with a quest for the main character. Turns out our anti-hero surrendered his soul to Satan, and the book starts out with him tricking his way back into Hell in order to demand it back. (Side note: Uhm? Really? And he thinks it likely because Satan is … a standup guy? So, he starts out behaving like a moron even though he’s supposed to be intelligent if rather clueless about common-sense matters.) Satan tells him, okay—if you get this dark soul-stealing carnival up and running and can steal me 100 souls in 1 year, then I’ll give you your soul back. Quest: check! His first mission: Get the carnival up and running. His second mission, figure out how the different elements of the circus will help him succeed at his mission. Each soul is a sub-mission. There are side-quests, etc. He seeks help from other characters (those played by the computer). Blah-blah-blah. Totally like a video game storyline. So then I was using my blow dryer on the book. (I’ll pause. I spilled water all over it, and I was planning to take it to the charity resale shop--Howard Brown, which raises funds for the healthcare needs of poor LGBT folks--that is next to the gay nightclub, which is next to my condo building, but I obviously couldn’t donate the book soaking wet.) And while I was blow drying it, the author page blew open, and I read thereon that the author of this book was a video game designer and scriptwriter.
I rest my fucking case.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Traveller (last edited Apr 09, 2012 01:20AM) (new) - added it

Traveller Yeah, I also often whish games would show more original writing, but on the other hand an ending does tend to be crummy if you don't end up saving the world. Dragon Age 2 is a prime example of that. One of the crappiest endings I ever had in a game.

...so plotwise I don't think you can really escape that, how many game's plots can follow an act like Planescape Torment anyway? Or Max Payne? (Awful pun on his name there, isn't it?)

Games can show more originality regarding world-building though, which is why Morrowind is such a fave of mine. I just love the lore they built up there.

message 2: by David (last edited Apr 09, 2012 04:47AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

David Katzman I've had my occasional addiction to video games. Immersive environments can help one overlook storytelling shortcomings. I'm not familiar with everything out there, but I do have a friend who shows me his latest favorite games once in a while. I haven't seen anyone crack the challenge of allowing you freedom to act as a character as in choose-your-own-adventure in a way that feels really open ended but still has an interesting story driving through it. Too loose and it becomes The Sims. Too guided and it's an adventure game. The middle ground is just quest after quest wandering around an open ended world. Freedom gives too many permutations to tell a story. Stories have determined paths without enough freedom for a game. I'm sure someone will crack it at some point. But either way, the video game model does not make for a good novel.

message 3: by Lea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lea Totally disagree with you, but I liked your review!

David Katzman I'm glad you could like it and dislike it at the same time! :-)

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