Thursday, 19 May 2011

Review | The Damned Busters - Matthew Hughes

Who doesn't love a Faustian deal? ...Fictionally, of course. The Damned Busters is a fun subversion of the trope: Chesney Arnstruther is constructing a poker table when he hits his thumb. While mentally swearing, speaking nonsense. Which turns out to be precisely the right incantation to summon a demon - complete with Faustian contract and pen. Unfortunately, Chesney wants to keep his soul for just a bit longer: and when the demon returns, unsatisfied, it's behind on its molten-gold-to-misers quota - and the conflict escalates. Soon, the demons of Hell are on strike, and in the process of negotiating a settlement between Satan and minions, Chesney manages to grab a perk: the demon Xaphan is at his call for two hours every day to fight crime. (Unfortunately, the last time he visited Earth was during Prohibition - though he makes a very good gangster).

However, the superhero profession is harder than it looks. And when the people you've saved are as happy to give you a healthy dose of pepper spray as thank you? Well, it gets worse, and not least because wants him to fight crime. For their own reasons. And Chesney can't figure out why... And meanwhile, the word is that someone's writing a book. And the characters have taken it over - and some are looking for an ending...

The Damned Busters is a light urban fantasy, humorously deconstructing the hero - with plenty of witty banter from Xaphan. Its metafictional element is also very fun - when the characters in your book have realised they're in fiction, and are shamelessly manipulating the plot because of it, you've got something very original (and hilarious). There's also some genuine drama (near the end) mixed in with the humorous antics, and you might even end up feeling that maybe there's a little truth in the authorial concept of religion...

All in all, The Damned Busters is a very un-adult urban comic fantasy: something rare in modern genre, and definitely to be savoured! It's also quite a short novel (again, a rarity), and can be easily enjoyed without too much involvement: perfect for a bus or train read. It has its flaws - it doesn't take itself seriously enough for any real drama, which can be a good thing, and it's not as amusing as some of the masters - but definitely worth picking up.


The Damned Busters is published by Angry Robot Books, and you can find it on Amazon here: Damned Busters: To Hell and Back, Book 1 (Hell to Pay)


  1. Great review! We both got a kick out of it! I do love my dark fantasy, and this was a very refreshing change of pace.

  2. Thank you for the review. I'm actually hopping by by Follow Friday Hop. Since your post is not up yet, I added my comment here.I'm a new follower, GFC inga.

    inga from

  3. @ littleredreviewer: Completely agree - it's a nice change, and I do love comic fantasy as well, though it's still a little uncommon. :) Looking forward to any sequels to this one...

    @ inga: Thanks, and welcome! I'm following back as well :)

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