The Revenant Road
Drollerie Press, 2009
Names are important to me. Especially names in fiction. I’m of the opinion that you can tell a lot about a fictional character on name alone and that a bad name can ruin a good a character. So when I came across the name Obadiah Grudge a huge smile spread across my face. I’ve come across few names that are as evocative, original, and fun as Obadiah Grudge; it is a name that fits the character like a glove. The Revenant Road is humorous and over-the-top action/horror novel filled with great dialogue and creative world-building.
The story begins with the death of Obadiah’s father, Marcus. It is quickly revealed to Obadiah, first by his mother Lenore (another great name!) and then by his father’s former partner Neville (the “crusty prophet;” a description that somehow manages to work to surprising effect) that Marcus comes from a long line of monster hunters. Obadiah, a successful if somewhat hacky writer of crime thrillers, of course doesn’t believe, or at least doesn’t want to believe, in this new world. As it happens Obadiah is constantly thrust, kicking and screaming, into a world he doesn’t want to believe and is forced to confront the presence of the weird in his life since a very young age.
Perhaps the best thing about The Revenant Road is the original language and surprising detailed world that Boatman manages to craft. I don’t want to ruin for potential readers but the cosmology that Boatman creates is impressively cohesive bit of fiction and while not completely detailed feels complete. Boatman takes things a step further utilizing some creative terms to describe things in his world such as the term “bent” to refers to some of the mystical powers that a few monster hunters manifest. As a fan of fantasy I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that I latch on to the more fantastical elements of Boatman’s tale, and the world-building in particular, but it was some really great stuff that takes familiar concepts and crafts them into a unique whole.
While not really a bad thing the action and drama (and gore) of monster attacks plaguing the Seattle area and Obadiah’s own (mis)adventures detracts a little from the world building while simultaneously keeping the plot moving at a rapid pace. I think that, in the end, the quick pace and constant action work in the novel’s favor and allows for Boatman to sprinkle little bits of his world’s mythology here and there; typically revealed through our seasoned veteran Neville. We get glimpses of other hunters but by-and-large the novel stays tightly focused on Neville and Grudge. For all it’s fast pacing The Revenant Road does an excellent job of giving readers a in depth look at Grudge and what makes him tick. I thoroughly enjoyed Grudge’s ruminations/flashbacks on his childhood and was intrigued and chilled by the action figure that spoke to him about when people would die.
Boatman also shows a particular flair for some truly grotesque monsters and doesn’t flinch from gore, violence, and truly horrific scenery. Grudges encounter with a vampire is some nasty stuff as she sheds her human skin in order to take on her true form, or the evil worm-filled pigeon, or the alter of human corpses, or the mutilated ghosts that visit Grudge. The list goes on. Boatman typically chooses to juxtapose these horrific monsters with bits of humor since it is quickly revealed that vampires have OCD, the ghosts are almost a glorified and highly critical peanut gallery, and well an evil pestilence filled pigeon is pretty humorous in its own right. And I shouldn’t forget that Grudge is assailed by murderous book critics…more than once. That isn’t to say there are some places where the humor falls flat. I was not particularly impressed by the use of an Indian born owner of a convenience store; a stereotype that I’ve only ever found funny via The Simpsons. However, these parts are few and far between and overall found the humor genuinely funny.
In the end I found The Revenant Road to be a thoroughly enjoyable ride full of humor, horror, and excitement. Boatman’s world is both horrific and believable and, while it borrows from various mythologies, displays a mile-wide streak of originality. While relatively few copies appear to be left over at Amazon, Drollerie Press offers the novel up in various electronic forms and even has a sample to whet your appetite. If you’re looking for a fun, unflinching, well-written, thrill-a-minute ride then you should do yourself a favor and check out The Revenant Road.