Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fiction's Finest Nerds #42

When I did the Premature Book Review of Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, I was very early in the book. Now that I have read through most of it, I felt a Fiction's Finest Nerds entry on the titular necromancer was in order.

Cabal is a scientist who has a yet undisclosed issue with death. It is hinted that he pursued necromancy for the benefit of mankind, but frankly his character is so self-involved I find this hard to believe. He warrants being called a nerd here for several reason, one of which involves his similarities to another entrant, Dr. Temperance Brennan, aka "Bones."

Johannes Cabal is driven by logic, and understands little of what interests the common man, which makes his running a carnival all-the-more humorous. Like Bones, he is often baffled by his customers. He is also partnered with his brother Horst, who like Seeley Boothe, understands the desire of entertainment and passion for passion's sake.
Blood was thicker than water, after all. He had its relative density written down somewhere to prove it.
Now, this book is much more involved than a television show, so Cabal is not quite as cartoon-like as Brennan. We do get to learn more about his nature than we typically do with Bones, mainly that he is a bit of a bastard. This bodes well, in my opinion. First, there is the expectation that as the protagonist we will see him change his ways and win our hearts. Secondly, there is the more delightful anticipation that the preceding hope will be dashed. Evil, is so much more enjoyable than good, and frankly more accurate to the true workings of the world. Take Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events for example. When the story ends, he behaves unexpectedly, yet within character. He is a cad, to be sure, but there is a complexity to him that makes him an endearing character. Michael Moorecock's Elric is similar as well. I despised Elric for the first four books, indeed up until the last chapter of Stormbringer. In a way he redeems himself, but does not atone. His character may have expanded, but he did not turn over a new leaf. Like actual human beings, these three characters primarily hold their own interests at heart. Benefiting or pleasing others, if you will forgive my cynicism, largely depends on the benefit to ourselves.
"Now you’ve told me your motives for helping me get this signed, it’s taken the shine off it somewhat. We’re supposed to be doing the devil’s work and you’ve gone and contaminated it all with the whiff of virtue. I really don’t think you’ve quite got the hang of being an agent of evil."
Thus far Cabal asks no forgiveness, and despite the turns of the wheel he is single minded in his purpose. There is a second book, so obviously he survives, but how does it happen? Will he still be the snob I grudgingly love? The misanthrope with oddly humanitarian goals? Will he be a goody-two-shoes? I certainly hope he remains an unlikeable sort. Someone you want to read about, but not get personally involved with.

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