Marc Aplin's Reviews > Kultus

Kultus by Richard  Ford
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's review
Feb 08, 2012

really liked it
Read in February, 2012

“It’s not Game Of Thrones” were the words uttered to me as I received my copy of ‘Kultus’ by Richard Ford. Now, it turns out that this was a true statement – however, hopefully, I think a better way to discuss this book would be to tell you what it is rather than what it is not – because damned you are in for one hell of a ride once you pick it up!

“A steam-powered burlesque of brutal demonic action!” as it states on the cover is pretty much a good introduction to what you can expect, but personally I believe to fully understand what waits for you beyond the cover (which is beautiful by the way) you need to know who ‘Thaddeus Blaklok’ is. In short he is the kind of guy you don’t want to mess with. He is incredibly intelligent and has demonic powers that give a human about as much chance in a fight with him as if that human were to take on a lion with a steak tied round their neck… His powers come from the tears and tattoos on his skin that form symbols and designs. We don’t actually find out much about Thaddeus’s past, although there are a number of hints along the way that whatever it was he done, it landed him in hell and how he got back is a bit of a mystery.

So, now you know a little about Thaddeus you have probably assumed that he doesn’t work as a cop or a doctor or any other respectable profession. Good on you! He doesn’t. He is your typical mercenary / thug-for-hire and the people who hire him tend to be up to no good. Certainly, this time round, when he is asked to steal a ‘key’ from a display in his Steam-Punk city you know the demon asking him to retrieve it doesn’t have good intentions in mind. However, Thaddeus isn’t the kind of man who sets about asking questions before taking a job… if you are paying, he’s playing.

So, Thaddeus heads off the location the key is displayed and begins plotting how on Earth he is going to steal it. Obviously the owner of this key has placed a pretty high value on it and it is therefore well protected… Not only that, whilst in the facility scoping out his intended treasure he spots a number of other questionable characters who also seem to be after the key. Before Thaddeus can move the key is stolen and rather than a simple museum type theft he realises that he is going to have to compete against the multitude of cults, demons and even legal agencies who want to steal this key for their own demonic or righteous purposes.

The story moves at a mile a minute… faster perhaps. I think the only negative reviews I’ve read on this book complain about this point. Richard Ford is very, very light on description and world building. Now, go back to my first sentence: “It’s not Game Of Thrones”. I think, as long as you pick us this book and realise this isn’t a ‘fantasy’ novel as such, it is a Steam Punk novel you will be pleasantly surprised by what the book offers. The chapters are very, very short – essentially, each chapter of around 10-20 pages (the book is about 280 in total) offers a complete section of the story. It might be a fight, it may be the passing of the key to another party, and it may be a bit of investigative work or even a stab in the back by a traitor. The thing is each chapter feels very fresh and offers you something that the one before it didn’t. As a reader this had me tearing through the book and I wouldn’t be surprised if (like me) a lot of readers finish this in a couple of or even a single sitting.

As I said there isn’t a great deal of World building, however, I’m going to actually note this as a strength as well as a weakness. Richard Ford is fairly safe because the cover describes the novels as ‘Steam Punk’ therefore, readers instantly know the kind of World Thaddeus lives in – much like when someone tells you ‘x’ is an Arthurian Fantasy. As soon as someone tells you that the world the novel is set within is a steam-fuelled city you will hopefully start seeing airships, strange bronze guns and fairly well developed industrial estates. With steam-punk becoming so popular in recent years it is likely you’ve experienced these kinds of worlds explained in great detail and probably don’t need it doing again. The only point at which I’d worry would be if this was your first steam-punk novel – you may well end up a little disorientated then.

Could I compare this novel to another? Well, it isn’t far off ‘Retribution Falls’ in terms of pace and characters. I think the characters in ‘Retribution Falls’ are probably easier to connect to but the pace of ‘Kultus’ is far more relentless and there is far greater creativity here too. Whilst on the subject of demons I should say that they are very, very well done and Richard paints a very vivid picture – perhaps a little too vivid at a certain point (probably best you read the book to work that one out!).

I’d like to finish up this review by telling you of Richard Ford’s number one strength in ‘Kultus’. Richard Ford has a damned impressive voice. By voice, I mean the way the narration comes across. The novel is told in third person limited, i.e. you only know and see what the character the narrator is discussing sees and thinks at that point. However, it is told in a way that it feels that character is narrating their own thoughts and feelings at that time. This means that there is a ton of sarcasm and ‘Oh Shit!’ type moments that will have you laughing along and sneering with the character that is currently narrating for you. One of the best examples of Richard’s skill in this aspect is when he takes over the narration of a demon. The demons thoughts come across as very evil, very sadistic, animalistic even and it is surely difficult to pull this off…

So, if you are looking for a book and are willing to accept that “It’s not Game Of Thrones” I think you will thoroughly enjoy ‘Kultus’. It is relentless, it will have you laughing and beneath all that there is a damned enjoyable plot that will keep you hooked whilst it twists and turns to its destination.
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Gavin Gates Loved this one too

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