Saturday, 20 February 2010

Doctor Diablo (novel)

Have given my thoughts on a few comic books and collected editions, I thought I'd start to do the same for some books relating to the superhero and/or pulp genres.

First up is Doctor Diablo by H.G. Martin. A little tricky to pigeon-hole this one. The prose superhero genre is certainly not homogeneous by any standards. When you examine a 'genre' and it runs the gamut from the satirical/parodic Superfolks to the visceral and pulpy (in a very good way) Devil's Cape, to the literary intents of a book like Soon I Will Be Invincible, then it is certainly a broad church, both in terms of narrative and plot, as well as style.

Coming back to Doctor Diablo it skips along as pretty light fayre for the most part. In some ways the series of books I would most readily compare it with is the Stainless Steel Rat books by Harry Harrison. In that I mean there is a degree of humour and flawed character shown by our antihero narrator (the titular Doctor Diablo), but that it is not an out-and-out humour/comedy novel. Both focus on a career criminal and both place that character into the context of a specific genre (sci-fi for the Rat, and the world of superhero fiction for Doctor Diablo).

The novel itself is quite slim, and the plot is not overly complex. I won't divulge any major details except to say that Doctor Diablo becomes embroiled in collision course of action against San Francisco's nastiest and most vile villain. The named cast is almost entirely populated by super humans from both sides of the fence (mainly the criminal side), with normal folks pretty much kept out of the way. The characters are perhaps less rounded than I would have liked, but that didn't stop me enjoying the book. The writing style is light in a good way - as I say in reading it, the book skipped along. This is certainly no literary high-watermark, but that is okay because I for one really enjoyed it nonetheless.

One word of warning and the biggest criticism I would make is the vulgarity of some of the dialogue, especially in the latter stages. I daresay this was done for impact and to add a sense of verisimilitude. To my mind it was a lazy trick. It isn't an overwhelming amount of coarse language but it is there, it does escalate and it means I wouldn't recommend it for kids or young teenagers. I feel the author could have made an impact by focusing on narrative rather than a cheap ploy like this, especially as it seemed out of context by creeping into the later passages, but it wasn't too off-putting.

On the whole a recommended read. If you have tried and enjoyed books like Devil's Cape or Soon I Will Be Invincible then you may just enjoy it.

Image copyright © H.G. Martin.

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