“A Kiss Before the Apocalypse (Remy Chandler, #1)” by Thomas E. Sniegoski

kiss before

 

This is a short novel, (less than 300 pages) dealing with big themes at a brisk pace that shows a discipline I wish more writers in this genre would share.

The plot line is pure graphic novel (a plus from my point of view; I’m a long time fan of the genre): The Angel of Death is missing, the apocalypse is coming and Remy Chandler, PI and former Seraphim has to find the Angel of Death to prevent the end of the world. The downside (apart from the blood and pain needed to achieve the task) is that success will mean the death of the woman he loves.

The book brims with new ideas that capture the imagination and old ideas artfully redrawn that give the book a context. The feel is as Film Noire as the character’s name suggests and all the better for that.

Sniegoski handles the big issues here not by rambling discussions of ethics and philosophy but by bringing us to the basics of humanity: the overwhelming impact of being loved, the inevitability of death, the optimism it takes to keep going in the face of pain and suffering, and the acknowledgement that there are no short cuts when it comes to emotions; knowing grief is coming won’t protect you from its bite.

The linchpin of this book is Remy’s desire to put aside the angelic nature that he has become ashamed of and embrace the physically fragile but emotionally and spiritually rich existence of humans. This allows us both an insight into the inhumanity of Heaven and the things about our own lives that define us as human.
The various non-human entities here are described succinctly and with a clarity that enabled me to see the movie that this book would make.

The book truly comes to life in Remy’s relationship with his young Labrador dog, Marlowe. Anyone who has ever had a Labrador as part of their pack will recognise Marlowe. They will also be jealous of Remy’s ability actually to hear Marlowe’s voice rather than having to work out what is being said through gestures and body-language; few things are more humbling than realising that your dog is being patient with you, waiting for you finally to figure out what he has already told you three times.

The book would have been stronger in my view if there had been a little more visibility of the back-story between Remy and his wife, but this is a minor nit.

I look forward to the next in the series.

One last thing: don’t be put off by the title. It is definitely the worse thing about the book.

I suspect there’s an editor out there somewhere who should be blushing for having insisted on this title and the even worse cover art.

I imagine the editor saying: “It’s a wonderful title, honestly. We’ll maximise the appeal to the target demographic if we have the word Kiss and Apocalypse in the title and let’s make sure the dog gets on the cover, oh, and give him a sort of Harry Dresden grim-in-a-leather-duster look (yes I know it isn’t in the text – this is cover art, darling, you don’t have to be so literal) and remember to give him a big long sword, gotta love the symbolism in that.”

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