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The Last Four Things
by Paul Hoffman

Release Date: 28th Apr 2011
Publisher: Michael Joseph
ISBN: 978 0 7181 5521 6
RRP: £14.99

Average Customer Rating: 
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Some purging, some bloody war and pregnancy piles...

We failed to see eye to eye with Hoffman’s The Left Hand of God; feeling, as we did, that it lacked a definitive plotline that satisfactorily engaged the reader. However, when offered the opportunity to read the next title in this series: The Last Four Things, our natural curiosity demanded to be satiated.

In this second instalment, The Redeemer General, Bosco, having decided that Cale is the “Left Hand of God” (in layman speak: he is The Angel of Death), calming informs the youngster that his intention is to use him as a means to install himself as Pope and thereby enabling him to fulfil his life-long crusade to purge the world of the wickedness of mankind. With the fervour of a fanatic and demonstrating a lethal range of ruthlessness, Bosco uses the great Redeemer propaganda machine to set Cale up as more than a mere boy; to be the destroyer, the embodiment of God’s Wrath. Cale’s capability in the stratagems and politics that come with waging war – it is both blisteringly calculated and coolly detached. But Cale is not entirely convinced of Bosco’s inconceivable intentions and is patiently biding his time until he can run.

To give Hoffman his due, as blithely as he appears to pilfer from an improbable number of sources, ranging incongruously from the Bible to Star Trek (“Many are called, but few are chosen”) – the construct of such an implausible world whose context is a mind-boggling pulp of our own (Guy Fawkes’ dummy burning on bonfires, recognisable countries such as Switzerland, zoos with Sloths in them) and the faintly ridiculous (“General Curly Wurly”, “King Zog”) is done with an enviable nonchalance that both sets your teeth on edge and elicits reluctant appreciation.

Misogyny is prolific, as is the theme of unspeakable sexual acts. The obsessive man-handling of this greatest of physical intimacies is often repugnant, occasionally disconcerting and ultimately a source of comedy within an otherwise darkly bloody tale. Hoffman expands on his characters, making them more multi-dimensional beings and educes a greater understanding of them that was severely lacking in The Left Hand of God. Whilst we’re still not sure if we like Hoffman’s peculiar writing style, one thing we have grudgingly come to accept is that he has wrung a certain admiration out of us. Not everyone likes their fantasy with all the bells and whistles; some prefer it Hoffman’s way – brutal politicking, inventive acts of human cruelty and a whirl of skirmishes, assassinations, massacres and battles.

A word of caution to the author, however; the laws of nature and biology dictate that Human pregnancy lasts roughly 9 months in total. If Kleist’s young wife, Daisy becomes pregnant one month after he falls in with the Klephts. That makes it 10 months post exodus of Memphis for Cale, Vague Henri and Kleist. So, the question over the paternity of Arabell Swan-Neck’s child when she is only 8 months gone must, mathematically and biologically speaking, disqualify the possibility of it being Cale’s. Whilst we’re happy (enough) to forgive random flights of fancy; we draw the line at messing with the horrendous condition that is pregnancy.

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