Between it being just a pointless book and my general state of exhaustion from living under the tyrannical rule of a toddler, getting through this book has been a battle. The good news is this was the last book in the series and I‘m now free of Chesney Armstruther and his accidental war between heaven and hell. (And dinosaur people.) The bad news is that when I finished it I couldn’t quite believe it was over, and continued flipping pages through the author acknowledgements as if there was some literary equivalent of the Marvel post credits scene that would make it all worth it.
Realizing there wasn’t I had to ask, “That’s it?” And not in a good way. Not in a, “oh no, that’s all? I need twelve more books to give me a satisfying level of closure about all of these complete and well written characters I’ve grown to love as family, and satisfying storylines and character arcs we’ve all been through together.”
Nope. It was more of a, “that’s really how you’re going to wrap up this bullshit? By completely negating the last three books you dragged me through over the span of two pages and then having a picnic?”
The author spent more time explaining dinosaur people than he did writing a proper conclusion to this three book story, not to mention how misguided and insulting his attitude towards individuals with autism comes across. I lost count of how many times he reminded the reader that Chesney had been “cured” and now was “normal”. But that’s ok, since that was all changed in the blink of an eye at the very end of the book, along with every major point in the story until that moment, when Chesney was autistic again when it served a purpose.
So, pretty much the best thing about this series was the cover art.
I’ve really been trying to get through this book. It hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, Matthew Hughes, the author of “Hell to Pay”, really hasn’t been doing his readers any favors.
I accidentally selected the ebook edition on Goodreads when I started the third and thankfully final book in the “To Hell and Back” series, so Goodreads mistakenly thought that when I updated my progress to page 196, I was done with the book. I wish I was. I wish I still didn’t have to read another 140-something pages to close this series out.
Why couldn’t Goodreads be right?
Why am I reading about a dinosaur chasing Chesney, our hero, in slow motion? Or he’s super fast, so the dinosaur and everyone else just seems to be moving in slow motion. But don’t worry, in case you forget that fact, the author will remind you every third paragraph. Why am I reading about how Chesney accidentally broke his girlfriend’s ribs carrying her away from the dinosaur super fast. That’s not really important though, because a half-rate Christ figure who was written out of existence when God rewrote parts of the Bible healed her. His name is Simon, but that doesn’t matter since he’s been a more or less empty barrel of a character. It isn’t that you don’t like him, its that you don’t care one way or the other if he’s there. Also Chesney’s girlfriend is breaking up with him. While in the tree. Where they’re hiding from the dinosaur. Also there’s dinosaur people. Simon will probably become their king after they try to sacrifice Chesney and Melda to their dinosaur gods. Or something. I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t care.
So far, I can’t actually nail down what the plot is or where and to what end we’re supposed to be moving towards. The writing had been repetitive, with certain ideas being repeated over and over again without actually moving the story forward. The book feels like a 331 page run-on sentence constantly circling back to a previous idea because the author forgot he’d mentioned that already.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, “The Damned Busters”, even while I didn’t. But that feeling of just good enough, that optimism that what the book had going for it would make up for its faults, is wearing off, and I’m not sure there’s enough left to get me through those last hundred pages.
There’s something addicting about Matthew Hughes’ “The Damned Busters”, the first book in his ‘To Hell and Back‘ series featuring insurance actuary Chesney Arnstruther. After accidentally summoning a demon and causing the legions in Hell to go on strike, Chesney strikes a strange deal with the Devil and becomes novice superhero the Actionary. Well, at least for two hours every day with the help of the rum-guzzling demon Xaphan, a weasel-faced demon who’s watched one too many Cagney movies.
There’s something addicting about this book… even while there’s something not good about it.
I realize how that sounds, but I don’t know any other way to say it. I’ve been struggling with this feeling the entire book. The story is decent and clever, with a humorous style that channels Douglas Adams without truly capturing the absurdity that perfectly captured the essence life itself that Adams seemed to effortlessly put down upon the page throughout the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.
Perhaps just as Chesney is lost within the world of his comic book idol, Malc Turner aka The Driver, his adventures as the Actionary and the events of the book from the moment he summons a demon on, are intended to emulate that comic book atmosphere with characters that are almost bland in their cartoonish, stereotype roles.
When he smashed his finger with the hammer, did drawing blood cause him to summon a demon, or pass out and dream all of this? Chesney does seem like someone who might faint at the sight of blood.
Good thing “The Damned Busters” is just addictive enough and ends on a cliffhanger that I can’t help but be interested in the second of the trilogy, “Costume Not Included”.