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Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan…
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Johannes Cabal the Necromancer (2009)

by Jonathan L. Howard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Johannes Cabal (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,302648,750 (3.92)138
  1. 10
    The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss (asukamaxwell, SomeGuyInVirginia)
    SomeGuyInVirginia: Agreeably horrific gaspers.
  2. 10
    This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It by David Wong (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  3. 00
    The Death Trilogy : Mort ; Reaper Man ; Soul Music by Terry Pratchett (PitcherBooks)
    PitcherBooks: While Howard's Cabal is a Necromancer (one who can raise the dead - in a fashion) And Pratchett's DEATH is the embodiment of death (which comes to us all)... The commonality is really that wonderful quirky British humor. Pratchett is an old favorite of mine and I have read every one of his books. Howard is my new favorite and I plan to read every one of his books. If you like one, odds are you'll enjoy the other...… (more)
  4. 00
    Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace (artificialbunny)
  5. 00
    Mort by Terry Pratchett (PitcherBooks)
    PitcherBooks: While Howard's Cabal is a Necromancer (one who can raise the dead - in a fashion) And Pratchett's DEATH is the embodiment of death (which comes to us all)... The commonality is really that wonderful quirky British humor. Pratchett is an old favorite of mine and I have read every one of his books. Howard is my new favorite and I plan to read every one of his books. If you like one, odds are you'll totally enjoy the other...… (more)
  6. 00
    Hell! Said the Duchess by Michael Arlen (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  7. 01
    Majestrum by Matthew Hughes (BobNolin)
  8. 12
    Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (jlparent)
    jlparent: Howard himself says Bradbury's book spurred the question - where do dark carnivals come from - so check out one of the best books ever (Something Wicked This Way Comes)!
  9. 01
    The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (Anonymous user)
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» See also 138 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Johannes Cabal is a douche. Yep, that's right, a douche. He lies, cheats, steals, murders, and does it all without remorse, putting his end goal above all morality. And now he has a problem, because he sold his useless--so he thought--soul to Satan and without it he just can't seem to perfect his experiments. So the brilliant Johannes Cabal makes a deal with Satan to get his soul back. All he has to do is get a bunch of other souls to take its place and Satan's going to help him do that...with a traveling carnival staffed by Cabal's own handmade zombies and run by his grudge-holding vampire brother.

Johannes is a terrible person, he truly is, but somehow he's learning and changing. Not a lot, but enough to make reading his story entertaining. He remains a pompous ass, vexed by the stupidity of the world around him, challenged only by a man of great morality. And his daughter. ( )
  tldegray | Sep 21, 2018 |
This was a cute book. While I enjoyed it, it felt like it was a bit off-balance. Some of the humor felt forced and perhaps out of place. ( )
  andrlik | Apr 24, 2018 |
I LOVED this book. Very clever, very gothic. Not many characters to really root for but you will barrel through it to see how it all turns out. ( )
  CSDaley | Mar 28, 2018 |
Having sold his soul to the devil in order to learn the secrets of necromany, Johannes isn't pleased to discover that the bargain has not achieved the results he had hoped for and that in fact, he actually needs his soul back. This realisation results in a trip to hell to bargain with the devil to regain his soul. Johannes strikes a deal to get 100 people to sign over their souls to the devil in exchange for his own soul back. With the help of his vampire older brother Horst and a demonic train, it's a race against time to see who will become the victor.

I must admit to being a little bit conflicted about this book. There were times when the dark humour had me outright laughing and times when the story seemed to drag on because of repetitiveness. There's only so many times one can read descriptions of gouls and be entertained by them. Howard is at times needlessly verbose though generally speaking the language helps to cement Cabal's character.

As with any Faustian deal, there is an element of morality to this story. Johannes is so intent in collecting the 100 souls that he doesn't think about the destruction that his travelling carnival is leaving in its wake. What is the point of regaining one's soul only to lose it in the act of regaining it? Horst, the vampire is the moral authority in this case. It's Horst who blocks a child from accidentally selling his soul and Horst who points out that there's a difference between getting people to sign who were already destined to go to hell and actively corrupting those who would not have ended up in hell. Horst can see unlike Johannes that this is so much more than a numbers game.

It's Horst who explains to Johannes that there's a difference between tricking a man who abuses women and discards them into selling his soul and tricking a stressed out and overwhelmed single mother into killing her child. No matter how hard Horst tries, Johannes simply cannot see. Even when elements of Johannes soften, they don't last long for the simple reason that his drive to regain his soul is so strong.

It's not until the very end that we clearly understand what is driving Johannes, though there are hints throughout as he reveals his anger at death itself, calling it a thief. Johannes is a very angry, jealous man. Though Horst helps Johannes throughout with his mission to capture 100 souls, Johannes cannot let go of his jealousy of his brother. It seems growing up, Horst was favoured by his parents and community, leaving Johannes always striving for attention and love. The sibling rivalry clearly had an affect on Johannes and warped his personality to a strong degree. Even though Johannes was responsible for Horst becoming a vampire, he still felt entitled to his brother's help.

For me, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer started to drag near the ending. By that time, the clever turns of phrase and the odd situations had begun to lose their shine. The first time Johannes went to hell, I was amused by the idea of the gate being guarded by the overly bureaucratic Arthur Trubshaw, whose job it is to make the deceased fill out copious forms before entry. Arthur, we are told, lived a life of "licentious proceduralism". By the time we meet Arthur for a second time however, I was pretty much done with the joke.

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer included ableism as part of its humour. Sure, the idea of a man who kills people because he is socially invisible did make me laugh however it was coupled with the equation of mass murder and mental illness. Yes, these murders were absurd and often times fun but there was no need to juxtapose mental illness and violence.

Read More ( )
2 vote FangsfortheFantasy | Aug 10, 2017 |
To sum up the feel of this book, it is written in such a way that it would adapt easily to a Tim Burton movie. There is not a lot of backstory or exposition in the book. It takes off seemingly in the middle of the story and goes from there. This is not necessarily a bad thing as this can bog down the beginning of a story. It begins with Johannes Cabal descending into Hell attempting to gain an audience with Satan. Years ago Johannes signed away his soul in order to further his research into necromancy. But because his lack of soul is skewing the scientific results of his research, he is determined to win it back. Satan makes Cabal a deal -- have 100 souls signed over to him within a year and he will have his own returned. Satan even assists with providing Cabal with a carnival, certain to attract the most depraved people. The book was enjoyable and a page-turner within being very affecting. There was no real emotional investment in the characters, although the very end was touching and gave meaning to Cabal's motivation. I was happy to hear there is a followup with the further adventures of this character. ( )
  dorie.craig | Jun 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan L. Howardprimary authorall editionscalculated
Smith, Linda “Snugbat”Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People/Characters
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Epigraph
A Clock stopped -

Not the Mantel's -

Geneva's farthest skill -

Can't put the puppet bowing -

That just now dangled still -

Emily Dickinson
Dedication
For Noel and Enid Howard
First words
Walpurgisnacht, the Hexennacht. The last night of April. The night of witches, when evil walks abroad.
Quotations
“It's a philosophical minefield!" Cabal had a brief mental image of Aristotle walking halfway across an open field before unexpectedly disappearing in a fireball. Descartes and Nietzsche looked on appalled. He pulled himself together.
The Mayor of Murslaugh was a jolly, ebullient man of the sort who, in a well-ordered world, would be called Fezziwig. That his name was Brown was a powerful indictment on the sorry state of things.
"I am Satan, also called Lucifer the Light Bearer..."
Cabal winced. What was it about devils that they always had to give you their whole family history?
"I was cast down from the presence of God himself into this dark, sulfurous pit and condemned to spend eternity
here-"
"Have you tried saying sorry?" interrupted Cabal.
"No, I haven't! I was sent down for a sin of pride. It rather undermines my position if I say 'sorry'!”
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

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Book description
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0767930762, Paperback)

Book Description
In this uproarious and clever debut, it’s time to give the Devil his due.

Johannes Cabal, a brilliant scientist and notorious snob, is single-mindedly obsessed in heart and soul with raising the dead. Well, perhaps not soul... He hastily sold his years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. But now, tormented by a dark secret, he travels to the fiery pits of Hell to retrieve it. Satan, who is incredibly bored these days, proposes a little wager: Johannes has one year to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever.

To make the bet even more interesting, Satan throws in that diabolical engine of deceit, seduction, and corruption known as a “traveling circus” to aid in the evil bidding. What better place exists to rob poor sad saps of their souls than the traveling carnivals historically run by hucksters and legendary con men?

With little time to lose, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire (an unfortunate side effect of Johannes’s early experiments with necromancy), to be the carnival’s barker. On the road through the pastoral English countryside, this team of reprobates wields their black magic with masterful ease, resulting in mayhem at every turn.

Johannes may have the moral conscience of anthrax, but are his tricks sinful enough to beat the Devil at his own game? You’ll never guess, and that’s a promise!

Brilliantly written and wickedly funny, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer combines the chills and thrills of old-fashioned gothic tales like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the mischievous humor of Wicked, and the sophisticated charms of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and spins the Faustian legend into a fresh, irreverent, and irresistible new adventure.

A Q&A with Jonathan L. Howard

Question: You’ve been working on Johannes Cabal in its various iterations for many years now, how did it feel spending so much time with such nefarious characters?

Jonathan L. Howard: It’s something of a cliché to say that villains are more interesting than heroes, nor is it even very true, so I shan’t be trotting that particular phrase out. I would suggest that it is the inner life of the character that makes them interesting, and that is true of the virtuous as much as the vile. Cabal does some rather horrible things, it is true, but he never does them purely to give himself the opportunity to curl his waxed moustache—he’s clean-shaven, for one thing—and declaim his wickedness. He always has a reason, and it’s usually a good one. I find fictional villains who are evil because they are evil unengaging. Cabal, on the other hand, has motivations and drives that most can sympathise with, even if the actions he commits based on those drives can be loathsome. For him, the ends always justify the means, and damn the consequences.

Question: The carnival in your book is used as a device for collecting souls; was there a real life inspiration for the carnival? Do you find there to be something generally sinister about carnivals?

Jonathan L. Howard: There’s no real life inspiration for the carnival, really, but plenty in fiction. The obvious inspiration was Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a deserved classic. I liked the Disney film version, too, and dearly wish that its original incarnation as a screenplay in the fifties produced by Gene Kelly—Gene Kelly!—had come to fruition. Something Wicked’s Cooger & Dark’s Carnival wasn’t the first threatening carnival in fiction, and it certainly wasn’t the last, but it is probably the best. It was the persnickety question of where such a carnival might come from and how anybody would end up as a proprietor that inspired my novel.

As for how sinister they are, that is to an extent a fictional conceit on my part too. You have to bear in mind that carnivals like that are unknown in the United Kingdom, and I haven’t heard of the traditional British travelling fair being transported by train either. The Cabal stories take place in a slightly blurry world where things come together because they aesthetically appeal to me, and not because they’re historically accurate; a magical realism of sorts. I wanted an American-style carnival travelling by train, and that’s what I got. That said, there are plenty of permanent fairgrounds around the country, and they tended to have a slightly creepy air about them. The real Ghost Trains in Blackpool and Porthcawl, for example, inspired the exterior of the Ghost Train in the novel.

Question: In addition to writing you work as a video game designer, how does that work compare to the experience of writing fiction? Are there any surprising similarities?

Jonathan L. Howard: There are definite similarities, but I wouldn’t say that they are surprising. The games I’ve worked on tend to have definite narratives, so it’s exactly the same process of inspiration, development, pacing, and polishing. The main difference is that a novel can have significant sequences in which physically little happens, which is considered heretical in games. In fairness, there’s good reason for that—the player wants to be involved, and there isn’t a great deal of opportunity for that in a scene consisting of two people talking over a cup of tea. That’s not to say it hasn’t been attempted, and pretty successfully. I remember a game a few years ago based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. It hit all its target, being very atmospheric, true to its source, even thought provoking, and all without Pit and the Pendulum platformer or Fall of the House of Usher first person shooter sections. In commercial terms, however, it was never going to be the next Tomb Raider.

Question: Have you always been a fan or horror and supernatural lore? When did this sort of thing first capture your imagination?

Jonathan L. Howard: Yes, I’ve always enjoyed the grotesque and the macabre, right from an early age. I recall that I somehow saw Dana Andrews being chased around the woods by a fireball in Night of the Demon when I was about four or five, and being fascinated. I grew up on a diet of black and white Doctor Who, The Avengers, snatched glimpses of the first few minutes of Out of the Unknown episodes before being sent to bed, and any number of slightly disturbing imports like The Tinderbox and The Singing, Ringing Tree. I remember that I got a book for Christmas sometime in the very early seventies called Stranger Than People, which was basically a young person’s guide to Fortean phenomena, interspersed with stories like "The Yellow Monster of Sundra Strait," and Poe’s "Metzengerstein." I loved that book; I read it so many times that the cover fell off.

Question: What sort of research did you do for the book? Was there anything you came across in the process that really surprised you?

Jonathan L. Howard: I actually did very little research for it; it was mostly lurking in my mind already. I can remember little necessary for day to day living, but if you ask me the birth name of Dr. Crippen’s wife, I can tell you off the top of my head. I needed a bit of nomenclature for something or other in the running of a carnival, which a librarian friend found for me, but that was the only real piece of research for it. Even things like the Grand Conjuration to summon a demon—which is an authentic ritual, you may be horrified to hear—was in a book I already had. I have a large collection of books on assorted esoterica to the extent that my wife, a bibliophile herself, rolls her eyes and says, “Not more bloody books?” whenever I come home with a bookshop bag and a sheepish expression.

Question: There is a lot of paperwork in your version of Hell. Did you hold an especially bureaucratic job somewhere before working as a game designer?

Jonathan L. Howard: No, I’m very happy to say. I remember as a child considering the inevitability of growing up and wondering what the worst thing about it would be. It all looked pretty good from that perspective: money, going to bed when you liked, being able to go into any certificate film, and so on. Finally, I spotted a bad point, and that bad point was having to fill in forms. And I was right. There’s just something about completing a form that fills me with dread in its consideration, and depression during its commission. Which reminds me; I have two to fill in this week. Oh, joy.

Question: Johannes is a bit of an anti-hero and his motivations are somewhat mysterious. Do you think that he’s misunderstood by those around him?

Jonathan L. Howard: He’s definitely misunderstood, although if he were understood, it still wouldn’t make him popular. The fact that he’s labeled a necromancer gives him a public relations problem, as the vast majority of them are power hungry lunatics. Cabal’s ultimate aim is to defeat death, and to have the ability to bring people back just as they were when they were alive, physically, mentally, and spiritually. No lurking demonic possessions, no uncouth brain gobbling. His researches in that direction, however, have not been conducted in the most advantageous light.

Question: What’s next for you?

Jonathan L. Howard: I handed in the submission draft of the second Cabal novel Johannes Cabal the Detective just the other week, so that will be going through the editorial process shortly. I also have to decide what the next Cabal novel after that will be; I have a couple of ideas so it’s a case of weighing pros and cons before making a decision. I have a couple of non-Cabal novels, one of which is completed but needs a second draft, and the other is about 80% done. I’d like to get them polished, and then see if we can get them into print.

(Photo © Emma L.B.K. Smith)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Johannes Cabal, a brilliant scientist and notorious snob, is single-mindedly obsessed in heart and soul with raising the dead. Well, perhaps not soul--he hastily sold his years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. But now, tormented by a dark secret, he travels to the fiery pits of Hell to retrieve it. Sataon, who is incredibly bored these days, proposes a little wager, Johannes has one years to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever.--From publisher's description.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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