Now this is an odd bird, and no mistake.
We’re in a world with many moons in the sky, a world where men ride goats, minor and major demons can be summoned, there are public-address systems, and the energy released during torture can be used to divine the future. That it works at all is rather amazing. That it works well is all down to Brent Michael Kelley’s admirable skill and concentration. The book could quite easily have gone off in all manner of directions, but Kelley keeps it tight and focused.
Chuggie is Norchug Mot Losiat, a five-horned drifter who is actually the embodiment of Drought. Perpetually drunk, a little shambolic, full of shaggy folk wisdom, he’s what Bukowski might have come up with if he’d tried to write a minor deity. Passing by from one place to another, he comes upon the city of Stagwater and, completely against his will, becomes mixed up in the machinations of the Magistrates who run it.
The book starts in a rather leisurely fashion, but it picks up pace as it goes and by the apocalyptic climax it’s built up a quite considerable head of steam. It takes in a witch bound by sorcery in the woods, a colossal monster baby created from rotting flesh, sorcerors good and bad, Steel Jacks – creatures of pure energy from another dimension – City guards, Carnie folk, a purse fashioned from the face of a goat which contains something deranging, and much, much more
It could all have been a bit of a mess, but it’s not. With what seems to be very little effort but which I suspect took an awful lot of work, Kelley marshals all these things into something quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Chuggie, who starts the book as a rather absurd figure drunkenly tangled up with a tree, grows into a genuine hero, a blue-collar godling of great power. The quality of Kelley’s worldbuilding is admirable, his characters are on occasion broadly-drawn but never less than interesting, and he does place extremely well.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I’m heartened by the open ending of the book because I’d quite like to find out more about Chuggie and the world he’s trudging through. If Brent Michael Kelley ever decides to return there, I’d like to return with him.
Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater is published by Omnium Gatherum Media and you can make a start on buying it here: http://tinyurl.com/bodm376 Do yourself a favour and give it a whirl; you’ll not be disappointed.