Friday, November 19, 2021

DEAD JACK and The Old Gods



By James Aquilone

Homunculous House

255 pgs

Unlike the overwhelming majority of our colleagues in the pulp community, we have never been fans of writer H.P. Lovecraft. His elaborate myth of the Cthulu and the Old Gods always seemed too grandiose a concept to be effective as good old fashion, gut wrenching horror. Gives us a creepy Edgar Alan Poe tale anytime. Obviously we are the minority and over the years have had to endure countless stories wherein various popular occult detectives battled the cosmic deities with their giant batwings and elephant snouts ad infinitum. Everyone one of those left us bored silly.

Which brings us to James Aquilone’s third Dead Jack adventure in which, you guessed it, our cynical Zombie detective and his Pillsbury Doughboy homunculus pal Oswald, must save the world of Pandemonium from the Ancient Gods. Apparently someone has gotten their hands on the dark magic tome known as the Necronomicon and is all set to open up a dimensional portal by which Cthulu and company will make their appearance. At this point we were ready to stifle a yawn. That never happened in this instance is due to Aquilone’s brilliant solution to the whole Lovecratian mythos; make it funny. Which is exactly what does work.

Amidst their quest for the book, Dead Jack and Oswald are attempting to work out some very serious relationship issues left over from their last adventure. It seems Oswald has swallowed a magical Jupiter Stone which gives him amazing powers. Though unwilling to admit it, Dead Jack is envious. Succumbing to that emotion, he begins to verbally abuse his little buddy to the point they seek out couples-therapy. Somewhere in the middle of this merging of insane plots, it suddenly dawned on us who the two of them brought to mind. Jack and Oswald are the horror/fantasy versions of the classic Hollywood comedy team of Bad Abbott and Lou Costello. It’s all there, from their sniping attitudes towards each other in the midst of danger, to the underlying true sense of friendship and loyalty.

All of which plays itself out by the book’s cataclysmic no-holds-barred battle between their unified avatar and the alien God of Doom. Honestly, Aquilone surprised us again with another entry twice as much fun as the first two. With Dead Jack, things are never dull for a second. Oh, and before we forget, the writer offers up two bonus short tales that are mini gems. The hardest part of reading a Dead Jack novel is reaching the end and having to wait for more. Now that’s cruel.

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