The Last Supper Before Ragnarok by Cassandra Khaw
Abbadon Books, ebook, £4.99
Reviewed by John C Adams
Cassandra Khaw’s first novella Hammers on Bone was nominated for the Locus Award and British Fantasy Award. Her novel Food of the Gods was also nominated for the Locus Award. She is also a contributor to F&SF, Lightspeed, Tor.com and Strange Horizons.
This novel sits comfortably within the ambit of urban fantasy but with an ironic irreverence that gives it a fresh feel. Narrator Rupert Wong has fought many battles against the forces of darkness, and the number of times he’s been brought back from the dead suggests the fight he wages now won’t be an easy one unless he’s ready to raise the bar. Unwilling and inept fledgling sidekick Fitz, recruited in a noodle restaurant, probably won’t help with that over much, but Amanda, avatar of the Internet, has a more proficient style of approach and the business apparel to match. Their initial defeat, fighting dragon god Ao Qin, bonds their team in adversity, and from then on they are committed to each other and to the great task that lies ahead. They were all likeable but complex characters, and the interplay of their relationships with each other greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the novel.
The action is located first in Malaysia and then Florida. Gods from more than one pantheon and dragons are regular features of its universe. The pivot from east to west opens up the story to more of a global feel, appropriately given that one of the themes is humanity’s love/hate relationship with the gods we invent for ourselves. Material as varied as HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and the Internet become involved in the debate, and I caught passing flashes of Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness along the way. A vivid description of what it feels like to be resurrected after Rupert is on the losing end of an encounter with a crocodile stayed with me.
In between reflective passages, there is frequently a shift to more bloodthirsty action as the story moves along at a brisk pace. A sassy tone pervaded its pages, and the humour was deftly handled. The skill lay in how well these elements were married together. There was an open-mindedness and common humanity here too: a tale that brings people together rather than driving them apart. The world possibly doesn’t require many more books on faith, but it definitely needs a lot more stories like this one!