I was impressed with the first book in this series from author C. T. Phipps and I have to say that this one is better still! John Henry Booth is back after defeating Alan Ward in book 1. Along with partner, Mercury, Booth is tasked with locating and removing an excommunicated member of the Miskatonic University before he awakens the Tower of Zhaal and the Unimaginable Horror, bringing about the end of..well, everything!! In return, Booth will regain is humanity, after all he is slowly transforming into a monster, remember!
The Tower of Zhaal sees Booth and Mercury lead a team of misfits, murderers and thieves across the wastelands in search of Marcus Whateley. The assembled team is like an eldritch version of the Suicide Squad with each member having their own particular field of expertise and skill set. Phipps handles these other characters well, they each have their own personalities and quirks and it is easy to become attached to them, particularly August, he is a character I really enjoyed. The story itself isn’t as simple as I first thought, and there are numerous twists and turns that complicate what seems like a straightforward seek and destroy. The question is, is Whateley really the monster in all of this?
I loved the dry humour of the book and the witty dialogue is excellent. The action scenes are first class thanks to Phipps’ vivid descriptions. Tentacles scythe through flesh with the utmost of ease, bodies are shattered, torn into indecipherable fragments and then pulverized some more. It’s just great, great reading!!
Phipps obviously loves the Cthulhu mythos, he is passionate and knowledgable and is therefore able to manipulate the source material with great ease, thus creating fascinating scenes and characters. Phipps chooses to go all out with his descriptions, instead of using Lovecraft’s more suggestive and atmospheric approach to storytelling and it works well, very well in fact! The Tower of Zhaal is a very different beast to most Lovecraft-inspired works. It is fast-paced, action-packed, and a little bit bonkers too. The sleeping god, Cthulhu is an ever-present force that lurks in the background throughout this novel, just out of sight, yet still able to shatter your feeble mind in an instant.The wait for him to appear is well worth it, and should he of stayed any longer in the story I fear my feeble mind would be ruined, shattered into a million pieces and scattered throughout the cosmos.
I bloody love this book, I really cannot find fault with it at all. Hugely enjoyable, gory, funny, philosophical, exciting…just get it!
In another dimension I would award The Tower of Zhaal 6/5 Shoggoths. However, the Elder Gods over at Goodreads and Amazon insist that I make do with 5/5 Shoggoths from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.