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The Damned Busters

(To Hell and Back #1)

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,189 ratings  ·  155 reviews
After accidentally summoning a demon, 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… with disastrous consequences.
Paperback, 413 pages
Published (first published May 31st 2011)
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Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-fantasy, 2012
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
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
[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
Kara 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
May 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, crime, angels
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
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was hilarious. A socially challenged office worker accidentally summons a demon and ends up throwing hell into a strike since a deal wasn't made. As a result, they make a deal where he gets to be a superhero and he partners up with a demon who loves to drink. In the end, he ends up getting the girl. Overall, the book was hilarious and I can't wait to read the next one. ...more
Lorina Stephens
May 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.

Nathan Shumate
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 —
Brian Clegg
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
The Damned Busters follows in a noble tradition of humorous fantasies in which someone gets one over on the devil when entering into a pact - such stories follow on from what seems to be a very early form of fantasy story with a number of legends (usually explaining odd landmarks) using this plot line.

In Matthew Hughes' novel, comic-book obsessed Chesney Artstruther, an actuary on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. accidentally summons a demon. His refusal to accept a pact results
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
There's something addicting about Matthew Hughes' "The Damned Busters", the first book in his 'To Hell and Back' series thats features insurance actuary Chesney Arnstruther and who, after accidentally summoning a demon and causing the legions in Hell to go on strike, becomes the novice superhero the Actionary.  At least for two hours every day, with the help of the rum-guzzling demon Xaphan. 

There's something addicting about this book even while there's something... not good about it.  

I realiz
Jun 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prose, fantasy
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
Joseph Heath
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
A lot of this book is fantastic and right up my alley. It's one of the weirdest superhero origin stories I've ever read. It involves demons, God writing a book, and a guy hurting himself while building a poker table. The twists and turns this book takes are really fun and unexpected. The only downside to this book is that the author is not very good when it comes to women. The main character Chesney is kind of a stereotypical nice guy who can't talk around women and when he becomes the superhero ...more
Oct 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Gavin Gates
Sep 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Heidi The Reader
Quirky little novel about a boy, a demon, and the delicate balance of heaven and hell on earth. The set up to the action part of the story took a bit, but I didn't want to put the book down once it picked up. Read this if you have some patience for story building.

I really enjoyed the ending and look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Good but not Great. This might be for a number of reasons. I know that that author has written superhero tie-in books (specifically Wolverine: Lifeblood) but for me, this is his first superhero fantasy. It had a very distinct voice and flavour that his SF/Fantasy novels don't have. The inclusion of God and the Devil as characters also skewed this into Religious territory that I wasn't expecting.

First off, I had already (unknowingly) read the short story that helped to sell this series, so I was
Apr 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
What was that?! Some accountant is preparing his apartment for a poker game and in doing so, accidentally summons a demon. In the following exchange with the devil, he refuses to sell his soul, which leads to a crisis in Hell. They can't afford the loss of face this whole thing causes, so they pacify the accountant by giving him superpowers when he officially apologizes. From then onwards we get some weird rescue fantasies with our accountant as a stumbeling hero who tries to set up a situation ...more
Stacy Kingsley
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the hapless main character Chesney, who finds himself in a predicament that most people wouldn't know what to do about. When you accidentally summon a demon, what do you do? Chesney figures it out and keeps learning throughout. Now, while this is a great and fun book, there are some issues. I didn't care for the characters of Poppy or her father, because neither seemed to add much to the story. I did adore the Reverend Hardachre, as he was a voice of reason that seemed to be a little b ...more
This book was weird. And Different. And I liked it for it. Its plot does not in any way follow a traditional story, yet it still has a story. It was comical and goofy, cheesy, and even made me cringe at characters, but I felt like they acted in character which is great. Far to often characters break who they are just to fit the narrative of the story, but they never did here. I loved the ending and how we came about full circle with the poker arc. The demon personalities and their mimicry of hum ...more
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first 100 pages set up a lot of supernatural plot then seems to shift suddenly. But the elements do start to come together by the end of this first book, and are clearly meant to come together over the course of the series.

While some of the gender dynamics are a little rough, what I was not expecting was such a realistic portrayal of someone with autism. The main character is self-aware he is neuro-atypical, he does not limit himself or his desires. Nor do the majority of characters treat hi
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
Phil Larson
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's mindless fun, and this is coming from someone who strongly disliked Ready Player One. There are a few cool references in the writing and it's not just trying to prove how nerdy the writer is with nonstop references to the 80's. It also helps that the protagonist doesn't creep on his love interest. The writing was a pleasure and not at all pretentious given the subjects. It's in the vein of a Discworld book but manages to be its own original idea. ...more
May 09, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, given-up
In my lexicon, 1 star is a book to be avoided.

This is my first read of Hughes.

I couldn't finish it. The writing isn't bad, but...I don't know. It failed to grab me, the main character seems impossibly pathetic. The premise is interesting, but.....this just left me frustrated and cold.

I don't give up on books often, but I couldn't finish The Damned Busters. The writing itself is okay, but the characters, the story.....ugh. I wish I could say better about it.
Tom Jolly
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
An odd superhero story with heaven and hell and accounting involved, leading to two more books in a trilogy. There are plenty of intimations that this is leading to a "meta" story where the author is a known (godlike) entity affecting events in the story, which is also a bit strange. I mostly enjoyed this as I read it, but I like Mr. Hughes' Dying Earth universe stories (Baldemar et al) much more. ...more
Benjamin Kahn
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not a perfect book. I felt the climatic scene with the poker game a little weak, but for the most part I found the characters engaging the and plot moved at a good clip. I enjoyed the crime fighting and the interaction between Chesney and his demon, found the love triangle a little less interesting. An enjoyable read and I may seek out other books in the series.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
A very socially challenged actuary, Chesney Anstruther accidentally summons a demon and thru a funny series of events makes a deal to become a superhero two hours a day. Comedy ensues. If you like Tom Holt's books, you'll probably enjoy this one. ...more
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Actuary superhero. [s] 4 25 Dec 14, 2017 01:19PM  

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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

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” 3 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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