Who would have thought being a grim reaper could be… well, so grim? That’s what (un)life is like for Michael Holland, a deceased man who can’t get a moment to rest in peace with his new career as a disgruntled grim reaper, working the worst beat in the worst town.
It’s a deliciously dark comic idea exploited to the maximum in new fantasy horror novel Forever After by David Jester.
Thirty years after he shuffled off this mortal coil, Michael’s daily grind sees him strolling through the streets of Brittleside clearing up the dregs of society and latest winners of the Darwin Award.
Far from enjoying his work for the Angel of Death, where he receives credits in return for souls, he finds it to be the ultimate in soul-destroying dead-end jobs, and his eternal suffering isn’t alleviated one iota by those closest to him.
He lives in squalor with his roommate and de facto best fiend, Chip: a grubby pot-loving tooth fairy; he hangs out with a loose group of bogeymen, demons and clones, and has a psychiatrist who can literally read his mind.
Forever After isn’t a traditional novel in the sense of one big adventure as much as a collection of five loosely interwoven madcap, macabre tales set in a fantasy world that runs parallel to ours and where anything is possible, very little makes sense, and nothing is as it seems.
Over the course of the book, melancholic Michael and his mates must battle confused succubi, tormented psychopaths, and evil henchmen; solve the mystery of multiple werewolf murders and the disappearance of their souls, and track down an escaped demon who thinks he’s Santa Claus.
It all reads like a twisted lovechild of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Kevin Smith’s darkest dreams with its potent mix of fantasy creatures, graphic horror and toilet humour.
Michael is a classically British protagonist: he is down at heel, hoping for salvation but never finding it. Instead, his indignation only grows as he finds himself constantly spinning around in a whirlpool of bureaucratic and celestial confusion.
Anyone who’s read Jester’s previous books, including An Idiot in Love, will know to expect some wickedly biting and near-the-knuckle humour, so this isn’t a book for the faint-hearted.
But for those looking for an action-packed fantasy romp with some morbidly mirthful moments to savour, Forever After will come as a big scythe of relief.
Forever After by David Jester (Skyhorse Publishing) is out now, priced £13.01 in paperback and £12.36 as an eBook. Visit www.david-jester.com