Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer
Written by Jonathan L. Howard
Reviewed by Jarad Johnson
Witty, funny and meaningful writing sometimes feels hard to come by. Writing can often feel lazy, like writers are more interested in following a specific format than having an original story. The influx of authors and the sheer number of books published each year lends itself to that feeling of unoriginality and being bored.
When reviewing a book, I often find myself saying the same thing: the authors writing was weak here, the writing could’ve been better, the story was underdeveloped, et cetera. However, once in a while you come across a book that makes trudging through the unoriginal nonsense worth going on. This, I must say, is one such book, morbid, sarcastic, and funny.
The book centers around a man, who sold his soul to Satan in order to gain knowledge about death and how to cheat it. Like a lot of fables, it highlights a significant issue that western culture often refuses to face: death. Death is one of the few things that everyone will eventually experience, and yet it is the main thing that everyone wants to avoid. It’s the driving force behind almost everything we do. It feeds our productivity and our need to accomplish certain things before we die. In a strange way, death is one of the reasons why the events in life have meaning.
Johannes, in the book, is so desperate to conquer death that he sells his soul to damnation in order to do so. Much like him, we have an ingrained fear of death in our culture, and unlike many others, we have completely separated ourselves from it, making it more of an unknown boogeyman than a natural aspect of life, which is extremely unhealthy. Its arguably the entire guiding principle behind most religions, a promise of eternal life after death, and a chance to redeem yourself for misdeeds done on earth. This attitude tends to make followers of those religions focus more on the afterlife than on the issues facing them while they’re alive.
The carnival is a main aspect of the book, a place where people are lured by silly games and freakshows into selling their souls. While we may think of carnivals, or fairs, as a pastime regulated only for children, that wasn’t the original perception of them. They were places of shock and awe, as well as entertainment, and featured things such as burlesque shows and vaudeville performances, so it makes sense that the author chose a carnival as Satan’s vehicle for soul snatching. The fact that some carnivals have been deemed satanic by religious groups kind of helps. I really enjoyed the way that the author played with that concept, and actually had a carnival where something more sinister was lurking under the surface, looking to steal more than just pocket change.
As a slightly sarcastic person myself – quit snickering Uncle Morty – I also appreciate the tone of this book. Not to give too much away, but there is a point where Johannes is having a conversation with Satan, calmly and sarcastically vying for his soul. We can all only hope to affect such a calm demeanor in such a situation, and to have such a biting wit, which is quite marvelously displayed in that scene. The wit and perfectly timed sarcasm are a large part of what makes the book so enjoyable and is something that you don’t read all that often. But still, mostly for a selfish reason, I wish it could pop up more in modern literature. If done correctly, sarcasm can be a hilarious and affective tool.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a welcome source of levity and distraction when it seems like the world is falling apart – which it certainly appears to be. I liked the sarcastic main character, so well crafted. The overall concept was refreshingly unique. It was also a thought provoking look at death and how we handle it in a subtle and non-confrontational way. I am genuinely looking forward to reading more from this author.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!