The Naming of the Beasts: A Felix Castor Novel
by Mike Carey
Review by Liz de Jager
Orbit Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781841496559
Date: 03 September 2009 List Price £7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
I'm a big, big, BIG fan of Mike Carey's work, having covered the first three Felix Castor novels for SFrevu - follow the links for The Devil You Know, Vicious Circle and Dead Men's Boots. This fifth title in the series, The Naming of the Beasts is an Orbit paperback original and is reviewed in this issue by Liz de Jager
"They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but if you ask Castor he'll tell you there's quite a bit of arrogance and reckless stupidity lining the streets as well. And he should know. There's only so many times you can play both sides against the middle and get away with it. Now, the inevitable moment of crisis has arrived and it's left Castor with blood on his hands. Well, not his hands, you understand; it's always someone else who pays the bill: friends, acquaintances, bystanders. So Castor drowns his guilt in cheap whiskey, while an innocent woman lies dead and her daughter comatose, his few remaining friends fear for their lives and there's a demon loose on the streets. But not just any demon - this one rides shotgun on his best friend's soul and can't be expelled without killing him. Looks like Felix Castor's got some tough choices to make, because expel the demon he must or all Hell will break loose. Literally ..."
There are some authors that guarantee a good read. Mike Carey is one of them. His Felix Castor novels are edgy and realistic, portraying London and its surroundings in a way that makes you hurry past dark alleyways even faster than usual, your back hollow, because you know something is lurking in those shadows, waiting to eat your face off.
The Naming of the Beasts is the fifth instalment of the Castor series and although it can be read as a standalone novel, you don't want to miss out on the previous four: these books are that moreish.
Back in the dim days of the first novel, the main character Castor Felix was a bit of a bastard, or so I thought. He was introduced, fully formed, with a lot of excess luggage. But such is Carey's skill in developing character and plot that before you realise it, you've become a fan of Fix and you physically wince when he gets pounded by some creature out for his blood, or you rail against some of the blatantly stupid decision others or indeed Fix makes during the course of the series. And trust me when I say this: Fix has the mouthy ability to get himself stuck in a lot of unpleasant situations. Only slightly reminiscent of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden novels, Carey's books are firmly set in the British Isles and London. But where the Dresden novels come across as "clean" or sanitised, if you will, Carey's writing is dark and gritty, bringing a realism to them that is hard to shake.
Naming of the Beasts follow on from the climatic events in Thicker than Water. Fix drowns his sorrows in a variety of alcoholic beverages, unable to face that he will have to stop a violent psychopathic demon on the loose - in the body of his best friend. Rafi/Asmodeus escaped from his confines, leaving his caretaker eviscerated and her daughter in a coma and Fix can only blame himself. As usual he tried fighting the good fight but powers and events outside his control screwed things up for him.
It takes Fix a little while to sober up. And when he does, he walks straight into trouble and you sort of hope that he picks up the bottle again because you know, when you're drunk, everything is better. Or that's the idea anyway.
The London we've been introduced to in the series is a dark place but there was always some shred of hope, some character that turned around and surprised us. In The Naming of the Beasts we are made aware of the changes occurring in the world, not just London. Big changes are afoot in the supernatural world. As an exorcist Fix can sense it - his talks with his various informants and there are those whom he trusts, indicate that they are no longer fighting the tide, as before. The general feel of the novel is one of impending doom and you can almost see the neon sign being fired up to proclaim the end of days.
Fix voluntarily walks into the lions' den and volunteers works with an old arch enemy to capture Rafi/Asmodeus. But on his terms. He wants his friend alive, he doesn't care what becomes of the demon. These were actions I deplored as both a reviewer and reader. It shocked me, because I've been with Fix for such a long time. But, to be honest, I should have known better. Carey would never betray our trust in him and Fix. As Fix takes on part of a case load, exorcising entities haunting a gym and re-establishing his friendship with an old friend Rosie, you slowly come to realise that Fix may appear the tame house exorcist but in reality, he is anything but. He still has his own agenda and at this point of the game, he will use whatever he can to save his friend Rafi's life. He pulls out all the stops and we applaud him from the sidelines because he refuses to quit, forging forward, coming up with more and more audacious plans to succeed in his task.
There is a tremendous amount of closure in The Naming of the Beasts. There are no spoilers here - sorry - but needless to say one big story line gets resolved with a fist to air punch and resounding "yes!", but it also leaves many further questions for the upcoming Felix Castor novels to work through. The Naming of the Beasts has to be the best Felix Castor novel by Mike Carey yet. The novels just keep getting better and I for one cannot wait for the sixth book in the series.