By Lydnsey Holder
Tidhar, Lavie. An Occupation of Angels. Apex Publications, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-9845535-3-2. 142 pp. $10.95 USD.
Angels, right? Can’t live with them; it’s pretty freaking hard to kill them – what’s a girl to do? Especially when they just show up during the Second World War and then don’t bother to leave, choosing instead to be huge pains in the butt in pretty much every major city everywhere. As if that weren’t bad enough, they start getting themselves murdered, which is where Killarney comes in. A member of a super-secret British organization, she is tasked with finding a missing cryptographer, who might have some clues as to who is killing the angels and why. Of course, it’s not that easy – there’s a strange group of people with swastika tattoos, who seem bent on her demise, and then there’s God, who is always ineffable.
Basically, it’s like the BBC series Spooks (AKA MI-5 in the U.S.), the movie The Prophecy, and the entire Hellboy collection got really drunk while watching re-runs of The Avengers and The Saint. Infused with hearty doses of noir and pulp, it skirts the line of camp without ever really venturing too far into it. It’s never really certain how seriously this book is trying to take itself, but it doesn’t really matter – it works both as a serious story and as a somewhat-campy one.
The writing itself is solid, although the preponderance of run-on sentences gives it a shaky, runaway-train sort of feeling. Normally, this would be a problem, but An Occupation of Angels is so quickly-paced that the lack of pauses fits very well with its overall breakneck speed. Constantly caught in a whirlwind of activity, poor Killarney never seems to catch a break and the relentless pounding of words mirrors the unyielding nature of the forces that are ceaselessly striving to ensure she is stopped by any means necessary.
At 142 pages, An Occupation of Angels is streamlined. It contains only what is necessary to the story and nothing else, which is refreshing. It does, however, require the reader to pay careful attention to the writing, as it quickly manoeuvres through plot with all the speed and deftness of a hummingbird. Skim over a sentence or two and you’ll be hopelessly lost. This was a clever way to write the story, as it pulls you in and makes you feel less like a passive observer and more as though you are right in the thick of the action.
An Occupation of Angels completely surpassed my expectations for it and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of action-packed pulp noir.
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