Another book review for you today, my friends, of one of the books I mentioned in this list. Check it out!
Book Review: Mick Farren, Necrom. New York: Ballantine Books, Del Rey, 1991.
My Score: 3/5
The story starts off with Joe Gibson, a former rockstar who’s now a washed-up nobody. He’s managed to get himself locked up in a psych ward, and the novel traces how he got there via flashbacks. He’s not at all likable–he brings a groupie who used to like him to his apartment, gets drunk and abuses her, and watches her go the next morning–but at least he admits it. Things rapidly take a turn for the weird, however, when he’s watching TV and an apparition of a skull appears on the screen! No matter how he tries, he can’t get rid of it, and it gives him a warning that his life is in danger. Just a few minutes later, a mysterious old man rings his doorbell. The old guy was responsible for the skull apparition, and tells Gibson that evil forces are coming for his life, and the only path to survival lies with the old stranger and his “associates.”
Against his better judgment, Gibson accepts, and on the way to their destination, the old man offers some explanation. It turns out that the titular Necrom, a being from another dimension possessing Godlike power, is awakening! Unfortunately, Necrom is also evil, so the old man and his associates are recruiting allies from across all dimensions to prepare for His coming. As it turns out, Gibson, for reasons unfathomable to him, the old man, and everyone else, is somehow a major player in the upcoming struggle.
Quite naturally, things go downhill from there, and Gibson is tossed into a panicked odyssey through the dimensions, crossing paths, running from, and allying with a cast of characters that includes Sumerian demons, Aryan Aztecs (I’m not making that up), UFOs, Lovecraftian horrors, and, finally, Necrom Himself in a conclusion that’s somewhat anticlimactic, but fitting with the course of the story and the themes of the book, I suppose.
I certainly enjoyed this book, for personal reasons I’ll describe in the second section of this review. But could I recommend it to absolutely everybody? Well…that’s a different question. As a pulp novel, it’s not bad at all. Farren’s prose is energetic and his descriptions clear, but it’s nothing particularly special. There are no really exquisite or piquant turns of phrase that one would put in a collection of great quotes, though Gibson has a few nice lines about color prejudice when he ends up in dimension where he’s discriminated against. Alas, Gibson himself isn’t a particularly likable character. He has no apparent special powers or abilities; as mentioned above other characters can’t figure out why Necrom is so interested in him. Thus, he spends most of the book just standing around watching as everyone else fights over him, or running away when things get too hot. He’s usually whining about how he doesn’t want to be there and he doesn’t know what’s going on, and while it’s understandable at first, some readers may find it annoying sooner rather than later. He also has a staunchly anti-authoritarian streak that makes him butt heads with pretty much anybody he encounters, and again, readers may find this as annoying as Gibson’s companions do. At the very least, however, Gibson himself acknowledges those flaws in the novel, so he’s not all bad.
None of the other characters are really that memorable either. A couple, like Yancey Slide and Gideon Windemere, are both capable in dimension-hopping firefights and fairly witty in their own way. Nephredana was also a pretty badass female character, though there’s not all that much that distinguishes her from other exemplars of the “tough punk girl” archetype, aside from the dimension-hopping trappings, of course. Even so, I didn’t find myself caring overmuch about any of these characters, who all seem to be motivated by just varying degrees of self interest and not a whole lot else, and none of whom did much, in my view, to separate themselves from stock shady character archetypes readers may be familiar with. So if memorable characters, or very original, captivating ones, are what you demand, you may be disappointed. D:
Similarly, the sex scenes are also somewhat disappointing. Women tend to fall into Gibson’s lap, and it just so happens that sex is one way of charging up “psionic energy,” which everyone needs to cross dimensions and so on. So our protagonist beds a few ladies over the course of the story, and while it’s well written (Farren is descriptive but knows to leave a healthy bit up to the reader’s imagination), it’s not very convincing since Gibson does virtually nothing to earn his erotic conquests–he’s not good looking and no longer accomplished, his glory days as a rock star looong behind him.
Still, if you’re looking for a relatively intriguing, engaging setting and a plot that amuses, this book is for you. Farren does a lot of interesting things with a multiverse. We see all kinds of crazy creatures, hang out in some pretty weird dimensions, particularly at the end, and while I won’t spoil anybody in this review, the reveal of Necrom’s true nature and His role in the story was pretty interesting. Necrom’s was *not* the sort of “malevolent God reviving after ages of peace” you expect to see in most media, and Farren’s work with him will definitely please readers looking for something a little different.
Now, I have to admit this novel has a bit of a special place in my heart, moreso than one would expect from a 3/5 Amazon.com review. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it was one of the first library books I picked up after I moved to a new house in the suburbs where I ended up spending most of my life, from late middle school all through college. I came across it one day when perusing the library nearby, and I thought the title, along with the cover art (a couple of FBI-agent looking guys standing in front of a pyramid, which amazingly enough isn’t entirely removed from the content of the book), and decided to take it home on a whim. So part of the reason I like it so much is nostalgia.
However, I also think I generally like the larger genre the book belongs to. I’m not sure if there’s a specific word for it, but “cross-dimensional wandering” seems as apt a description as any. If I were to define this genre, it would be “protagonist (usually but not always without any special skills or powers) gets wrapped up (usually against his will) in a scheme involving travelers from dimensions outside of his own, and spends the rest of the narrative traveling between dimensions and meeting various wacky characters, ranging from magicians to aliens to demons (literal or metaphorical).
The other exemplar of this sort of story I really love is the Myth Adventures series by Robert Aspirin (and later Lynn Nye), where a nondescript apprentice magician named Skeeve watches his master die and travels across various dimensions aside from his typical fantasy medieval “home world” to avenge the master’s death and later win fame and fortune. It’s a series of books, none of which have as much sex and explicit violence as Necrom, and which doesn’t generally contain the many references to ‘the real world’ like rock music, Aztecs, etc. that Necrom did, but I still enjoyed it for many of the same reasons. Some of the dimensions and dimension-travelers are as weird as anything you’d see in Necrom. While the Myth Adventures books are more humorous and don’t quite share the anti-authoritarian punk sensibilities of Mick Farren (expressed in Necrom and his other work generally, from what I’ve heard), if my description of Necrom interests you even a little bit, you might want to check out the Myth Adventures series. 😀
Or maybe something I write myself…given that I love the ‘dimensional wandering’ theme so much, I’m thinking of trying my hand at writing a novel like that eventually! But not for a while…not until I finish my dissertation XD And on that note, I bid y’all adieu for this week! Maybe next I’ll tell you more about my dissertation struggles, or another book review. XD