Magic is the Science and Art of causing change to occur in accordance with the Will - A Crowley.
- nobody ever lost money betting against the cops - Dawn Seliger
I'm opening this review with those two quotes and this section from the end of chapter one..,
But somebody killed my Bernstein, and ruined absolutely everything. But I am a fucking genius, and I was determined to find out who killed Bernstein and bring them to... No not Justice. To something else. - Dawn Seliger
Just like his protagonist in Love is the Law Nick Mamatas is determined to tell this story in all its in your face style and passion that only a disaffected teen punk girl can have and the primal scream on the cover is totally appropriate. Nick packed a whole lot into this brief novel including a great Scandinavianesque worthy detective story, political and philosophical rant that fits its right in with my memory of 1989, and that is fully prophetic of our own era nearly twent five years hence. Love is the Law is told through Dawn's jaundice coloured glasses in the wake of the latest tragedy in her life, the aparent suicide if her middle aged occult mentor and occasional lover Bernstein. The twisty turny investigation she starts takes her on a journey of discovery that links through her crack addicted father, her brilliant and now dead mentor to the comic shop , teen peers avant guarde basement shows and the rich white fucks in her Long Island town. Through Dawn Nick has a lot to say about the end of Eastern European communism, the philosophy and practice of Crowley-esque Satanism, the nature of family and the value of trusting others. Love is the Law is a rough bitter little pill of a noir novel as it sould be, borrowing from the tradition of Jim Thompson, Andrew Vacchs and Chandler Nick says a lot with his brutal brevity if your willing to listed to it. I will say this is not the book for the easily offended and it contains fucking harsh language, blatant and in your face sexual situations but its punk what do you want.
The story is told in the first person voice of punk rock girl Dawn, she spends almost no time thinking or talking about herself, her only description amounts to ' punk as fuck, studs and ripped everything, a bright orange Mohawk and I don't give a fuck about my "figure" '. What matters to her is her ability to be invisible to her fellow citizens, her interest in the occult, and like her mentor Trotskyist communism; (when we meet her achieving something other then Justice for her 'friend'.) Mixing Crowley occultism,and Communist philosophy Nick takes a new track on the urban fantasy train. The tale spins out from there introducing her dementia suffering grandmother who she lives with and reluctantly cares for, her crack addict of a loser father, the further subjects of her obsessive voyeurism and her absolute need to see someone suffer for the loss she now can't let go of. Nick started Dawn with little having taken her mother long before this story to cancer and her dad more recently to his various addictions; he continues to take away from her and test her resolve with each new thing she learns about the web of conspiracies and deceits that abound in this corner of whiteville. The triumphs of Nick's storytelling is his commitment to the voice Dawn tells her story in, sex is perfunctory lacking titillation, violence is equally perfunctory lacking aggrandizement all of it like the rest of the events in the story just are like punk anyone can do it. Nick's slim little murder myster is what all great noir novels are, a study of lead character and like the heroes of the above mentions classics Dawn takes it upon herself to right the wrongs around her and punish the apprently guilty revealing more about herself along the way they even she realizes.
I've been sitting on my feeling about this book for a week and I've come to love it more because of its complexity; Nick's stories always do that to me, give me more to think about. I know his noir heroine would spit on me for my thoughts of her as a heroine in the same vein as Lisbeth Salinder but its an apt comparison. Both woman are in a horrible place in the story, they are not the pretty heroine no matter ones screen portrayal. Dawn starts in her own urban fantasy here but it has none of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor even Harry Dresden glamour, its closer to the novels of Mark Teppo that I loved and his failed to gain aside fan base. This novel like most of the UF I love dredges the depths of the human soul where things are not shiny, pretty and safe. Nick is brutal, plain and blunt and that is why I enjoy his work. His characters wether they are brutal, stupid venal or just foolish they read as real to me. I was bullied for years and its great to see someone give as good as she gets. There is a brief episode of remorse when Dawn 'punches down' and it is telling that she realizes it; I like Dawn for her compassion or at least the compassion I see even if she would deny it.
This novel may not titillate you, it may not drive up your heart rate but it will give you lots of great story and things to think about. Love is the Law is a great murder mystery that has more to offer. It pulls on the occult and tarot tradition and communicated a useful message to me; The Tower is real because all things fall into chaos; the hedgemony of kings, the rise of the merchants, the time of capitalist corporate power and whatever come next all structures fall, everything changes, babalon always will fall, its just the nature of things. Survival is getting even. That's my takeaway, that is the hope offered hope to see you again Dawn. Looking forward to the next road story Nick or whatever come next Take care.... Excelsior ...
So if your local bookshops can't get it you can go to any of the following places to get this excellent tome I encourage you to bloody do so, but support your local stores if you can. Dawn rocks and so does Nick by association. Get in touch with your inner punk if you dare. At places that give stars I will be posting a five star review since I liked this book that much.
Nick Mamatas is know for his weird horror fiction tales that have connection to Lovecraftian mythos, the beats and to Hunter S Thompson among other things and edits the excellent line of SF&F translations for Haikasoru a division of Viz Comics. His fiction has also been published independently by Spectacular Fiction and by ChiZine one of my favorite small presses out of Canada.
LitReactor did an interview here
NPR review is here for your reading pleasure
Here is the link to the Dark Horse site
Barnes and Noble link here
Here is the link for Amazon and Besos supporters