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Department Zero Paperback – January 24, 2017
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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“The narrative is fast-paced and fun, and the set pieces are well imagined…. The humor is on point, and Priest is an affable ne’er-do-well who only wants to see his young daughter grow up. His delight at the wonder of multiple worlds offers a nice contrast to Graves’s wry, world-weary affect. Lovecraft fans might have a lot of fun with this one.”
About the Author
Paul Crilley is the author of The Osiris Curse and The Lazarus Machine. Born in Scotland in 1975, he moved to South Africa when he was eight years old. He was rather disappointed to find out that he would not, in fact, have elephants and lions strolling through his backyard. He now lives in a small village on the east coast of South Africa with his family. He writes fantasy, Young Adult, and Middle Grade books and also works in South African television. He spent a year as part of the writing team for the computer game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and also writes comics when he can get a chance.
Top customer reviews
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Quick & Dirty: A world in which Lovecraft written work is all true.
Opening Sentence: The polite term for what I do for a living is “biohazard remediation.”
Harry Priest is a crime scene cleaner, and one night he recives a phone call from a contact within the LAPD, so he and Jorge (the boss’s son) head out to the crime scence to clean it up. However, when they get there they quickly realize that something is different. Harry is sure that the police haven’t even been on the scene so he backs off, but before he can even call the police to confirm he finds Jorge in the room filiming the crime scene.
Once he gets Jorge out of the room, two officers show up and say they are with the ICD which Harry has not ever heard off, but they kick them out of the scene, and when Harry calls his contact he confirms that the scene was taken over by the ICD. So they leave and Harry dwells on it until Jorge calls him in a panic and he rushes over to Jorge’s apartment. Only to find some giant spider eating his brains. Completely freaked out Harry takes off and is pursed by a Shakespeare quoting monkey.
He accidentally shoots Graves (one of the ICD officer’s) and soon is offered a job within the ICD where he finds they are on the hunt for the Spear of Destiny and fallen gods. Harry finds himself kidnapped more than once, and begins to wonder if he will even get out of this alive. But discovering that this is really a multi-verse already puts a lot on Harry’s plate, will he be able to stop those trying to free an old god?
This is an interesting book and a quick read. Harry is a little more bumbling than I like my MC’s but I adored his relationship with his daughter. I thought it was really neat that in some worlds the War of the World really happened (H.G. Wells book) and that Lovecraft’s stories are all true. At the same time it was creepy and a little weird not going to lie, I tried not to freak out when that spider thing was on Jorge. I couldn’t decide if it was interesting when the man-faced monkey spoke only shakespeare quotes, but what I did get and really loved was the author clearly loved to read and this book is a homage to some great horror and science fiction classics.
All in all, this was decent book. I am not sure if it was meant to be a standalone or the start of something. Even though most of it wrapped in the book. I kind of felt that it was the start of something. Sometimes though we have to be satisfied with what we get.
I jerk back, trying to fight down panic. What do I do? Jump out the window, probably breaking my leg in the process, or run past the weird spider-monster in the lounge. Nothing in life has prepared me for this situation.
FTC Advisory: Pyr provided me with a copy of Department Zero. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Department Zero by Paul Crilley (book review)
If not for all that wondering, the Cthulhu mythos might not be what it is, a many-tentacled leviathan of ranks and names that writers have been adding to since Lovecraft’s first story. Some shape, some borrow, all in homage to an idea as old as storytelling. Asking ‘what if’ and giving the best answer possible. In the case of tales bearing the ‘Lovecraftian’ label, as scarily as possible.
With ‘Department Zero,’ author Paul Crilley approaches the mythos from a different direction. His characters do their share of flailing in fear, which is one of my favourite aspects of the original ‘Call Of Cthulhu,’ but they also quip, snipe and fumble from one dire situation to another. ‘Department Zero’ is laugh out loud funny.
Harry Priest always wanted to work in law enforcement. The closest he’s gotten is cleaning up crime scenes. He’s good humoured about it and his ability or need to see the lighter side of things is Harry’s most endearing quality. Called to clean up a particularly gory scene, Harry stumbles into an inter-dimensional conspiracy. Cthulhu is real and so are the Martians from ‘War Of The Worlds’. There are worlds where magic works and elves co-exist with humans. Like most realities, these alternate worlds have their own version of law enforcement and they’re hiring.
After one thrilling day, doing the job he always dreamed of, Harry and his team end up in Department Zero, cleaning up after crime scenes. Fortunately or not, another particularly gory scene provides a clue to getting back upstairs. Along the way, Harry will escape from certain death multiple times, sustain multiple head wounds and lose track of multiple priceless artefacts. He’ll do it all with his self-depreciating humour which doesn’t quite cover a keen need to succeed. Not just because he wants to save the world, but because he quite likes being alive and because he has something to live for: a seven year-old daughter.
I enjoyed reading ‘Department Zero’ more than I expected to. It’s not Urban Fantasy, which I have a hard time with, but is similar in tone with the hero being plucky and the bad guys being dastardly. There is no learning curve here, though. Or there wasn’t for me. I didn’t have to pick my way through yet another version of how the fey work, with the author assuming I knew it all already. Here, the alternate realities are many and they’re based on worlds I’ve read before. All the worlds. It’s fun and there aren’t a lot of unexplained rules. In fact, it’s chaos, but I never got lost.
The silliness did wear a tiny bit, with all the quipping and sniping and everyone always having something clever to say. The humour really suited the story, though. I mean, we’re talking about a universe filled with dimensional doorways, talking monkeys and entropy guns made of bone. And Cthulhu! It’s the ultimate mishmash of fantasy and Science Fiction and every other genre in between, so why not have a little fun with it. I snickered and chuckled and laughed and generally had a really good time while reading. The plot is also worthwhile. You may think you know what to expect going in, but there are a few surprises in store.
Harry’s voice wins the day, though. He’s just such an easy character to like. Serious when he needs to be, brave and loyal as a good hero should be, but also wonderfully flawed. I liked him a lot and I’d like to read more about him, so I hope Paul Crilley plans to write more adventures for his team. There are a lot of other worlds in this multiverse to explore. More crime, more doomsdays and the possibility of advancement out of Department Zero.
Recommended for readers of Science Fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal…and you know what? Recommended for anyone who likes genre fiction.
Written for SFCrowsnest.org.uk
Harry Priest is a crime scene cleaner. It was as close as he could get to being in law enforcement. He's called to a scene that defies logic - it's so graphically gross. He is sent off the scene by Havelock Graves, someone who works for something called ICD (Interstitial Crime Department). When Harry accidentally kills a member of ICD, Graves brings him on as a replacement/ bait and he soon finds himself embroiled in an interdimensional battle to save all of time and space from the monsters written of by H.P. Lovecraft.
Good comedy usually has a funny character and a straight character, but this book has two so-called comedians. Everything they say is sarcastic and rude to each other. By the time I got to the mid point of the book, I came to believe that Harry and Graves are essentially the same person. And when everyone in the book is equally sarcastic no one becomes likeable. It's like bad cop, bad cop. One of these guys should have been the good cop. I stuck it out to see how it went - partially because of the inexplicably close relationship Harry has with his daughter and the hope that he and his estranged wife may work things out. No spoilers!
In the end, we have an interesting idea, cool settings, fun gadgets, a main character that is easy to like because of his family, and a lot of cliché writing. If expectations are lowered to this point, then this book can be entertaining. But for the most part, I'd recommend re-writing Harry to remove the sarcasm and give us an "every man" to root for.