Review: The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs (2014)

The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

The quote on the back of The Incorruptibles is  from Patrick Rothfuss and goes likes this:

‘One part ancient Rome, two parts wild west, one part Faust. A pinch of Tolkien, of Lovecraft, of Dante. This is a strange alchemy, a recipe I’ve never seen before. I wish more books were as fresh and brave as this.’

There is no blurb. To be honest I’d buy it just from reading just that. Go on. There isn’t really any need for me to say any more. It does what it says and does it well. Oh, You want more? OK, but I really don’t see why you’re not sold already.

Westerns with (or without) a twist seem to be in the air at the moment. At least  with releases like Nunslinger, Your Brother’s Blood and  The Incorruptibles it feels that an area of the genre that is up for exploration a little more.

Though as you’ve seen Jacob Horner is taking his vision to the extreme. It feels like a ‘what if the Roman Empire had been mixed in with the Wild West but the Empire also powered their guns, and transport by devils and hellfire?’

As a premise it does allow Jacob Horner to play some genre conventions. It is still definitely a western. It has gunfighters, and Sherifs and a frontier.  The opening scene explains that our narrator and his working partner Fisk, are escorting a hellfire steamboat, Conelian, down the river. The boat contains a Senator and his children, two of whom are ghastly and two of them are decent enough considering their status and upbringing. But all of them, in terms of status, are  placed high above our protagonists.

Jacob Horner is having fun with the setting and its confines. He’s also playing with the idea of religion.  And that’s where it goes a little deeper and makes it more than a ‘pulp’ read. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve said, it packs in the fun and adventure but at the same time it tries to explore the morality of the situation. No one is really ‘pure’ so all the characters are interesting, even the less savoury ones .

There are some inhuman characters, apart from the demons, which fill in as the ‘enemy’ but even there something doesn’t quite add up. That is something which I hope the next book, Foreign Devils,  will poke at a little more.

To echo Rothfuss: This  fresh, fun and packed with a new mix of old ideas. Definitely read it if you like the sound of a gun-carrying adventure in a crazy world.