Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Pariah by Thomas Emson

A couple of months ago, I went for a snoop around in Waterstone’s. I don’t often shop there as they tend to price their books 3-5€ higher than the other book shop that’s pretty much next door to them, but this time I went in wanting two particular books from the 3 for 2 piles. While I was having a bit of a browse for a third book, I came across this book. The cover immediately caught my attention. As soon as I figured out that the book was going to be about Jack the Ripper (not that hard if you read the bits of text on the cover), I was sold and I knew that this would be my third book.

So I took it home then I did a typical Rea and put it on a shelf. But it reappeared after only a couple of months, so it did well!

Presentation: A large paperback with good quality paper. The font is quite large and well-spaced. There are 455 pages broken down in 120 chapters. Obviously, the chapters aren’t very long.

Story: In 1888, the person known as Jack the Ripper ripped open four females. Unbeknownst to the world at large, each of these females had something that the real Jack needed his ripper to get for him. Jack needs five of these souls to be freed from the prison of his existence, but before he can get the fifth soul, he is tracked down by the people sworn to protect our world from him and imprisoned in a well.
In 1996, Jack managed to find a New Ripper and another four women died in London’s slums – each of them ripped open.
In 2011, Jack reaches out to the evil in a human heart and frees himself from his prison. He needs to find the New Ripper. He needs those souls. And he needs a fifth. Then Hell will reign on Earth.

Charlie Faultless lost two people close to him in those 1996 murders: his mother and his girlfriend. Their losses pushed him to murder, and murder forced him to flee his life in London’s worst slums. Fifteen years later, he’s back with the intent of writing a book about the murders. Little does he know that his return will coincide with Jack’s.

Thoughts and impressions: At the start of the book, I was sold. As I suspect is the case with many people, I find Jack the Ripper to be a fascinating case. He did, after all, go down in infamy. Due to the fact that we know so little about him, this allows authors to let their imagination go wild with ideas for what could have happened, both fantasy- and reality-based. To begin with, I got the impression that the evil entity that has taken on the name Jack was caught in some form of limbo existence. This idea for a plot could have gone so many different ways – for example, he could have been a spirit cursed by witches, or the seers of the book – but it soon became obvious to me that the book was going to go down the religious route.

Originally, I thought that it would be revealed that Jack is an embodiment of Satan, but then the snake in the Garden of Eden comes into play so I knew it couldn’t be that (Satan is a Christian concept, not Jewish, and I know that Christians imply that the snake in the Garden of Eden is Satan, but as Satan is a much more recent concept, this cannot be the case.) Jack’s actual role in everything is actually quite complicated yet at the same time simple enough, and it’s really very well-imagined. This is a different take on religion and the spin on it all is very interesting. Sometimes the plot seemed to take a few liberties, though, that some religious people may not appreciate. I really liked how God was portrayed. When he was first introduced, I just completely overlooked the character as this book does seem to suffer from too-many-character-syndrome (ie, a significant number of characters / names are introduced that do not serve a role) and I found this rather ingenious!

Talking about character introductions, the chapters are very short and jump between PoVs. Some characters only get a grand total of one chapter from their PoV, and they usually have some back story given that then becomes moot when it’s not brought up again. I think that this could have been addressed better to make the story more concise. I firmly believe that a shorter story with a tighter plot is far better than a longer one that’s full of waffling. This particular book learns towards camp-waffle.

There’s a colourful cast of pretty unsavoury characters, with the exception of Tash and Jasmin. The focus is on life in the lowest social class, in the worst slums in London and the story reflects this. It is in many ways a social commentary. In my opinion, the author did a good job of this, portraying most of his cast as unlikeable individuals who are more than happy to call each other names (both to their faces and behind their backs). The narrative is positively rife with bad language, which leads me to wonder just who this book is aimed at. Personally, I’m sceptical when it comes to stories with a religiously influenced plot but at the same time I can’t imagine many religious people really appreciating this. Some of the religious explanations did fall short for me and once the religious element had been fully introduced, I felt the story lost some of its power. The said, I did really enjoy the concept of just what a ripper is.

The narrative bounces about between years, especially towards the start of the book. The passages set in 1888 were quite possibly my favourites as they dealt with the actual events of Jack the Ripper’s spree. Other periods range from pre-history to the present day. An eternal wars seems to have raged between Jack and the people he hunts but he cannot touch them himself so he has to recruit a ripper to take what he needs from the victims. I liked this idea because it affected their interactions and had Jack been able to hunt his own victims, there wouldn’t have been much of a story to tell.

The story leaves off on a point where it hints at some form of continuation in future books, but I think that I’m happy to leave it at that. I still have one question, though: what is this significance behind Charlie having one blue eye and one brown eye? This is never addressed.

Style: Very direct and to the point. The narrative is teeming with bad language. Several c-bombs are dropped and the f-word is used very liberally. It does reflect how language is used in this part of society, though.

Final verdict: I enjoyed this one but did feel that it had room for improvement. 4 stars.

Extra notes: As mentioned, lots of swearing. Sex behind closed doors.

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely one of those people who likes anything Jack The Ripper related so would pick up this book in a heartbeat!
    Thanks for the review - I may keep an eye out for it next month :D


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