Richard Kadrey and the End of Mankind
The end of mankind is a topic eliciting infinite fascination from authors, thinkers and philosophers from around the entire globe, generally calling for a more serious approach when explored in works of fiction. Most writers attempt to use the apocalypse as a canvas for studying humans and our potential reactions to cataclysms and restructuring of different severity. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, there are a few authors out there who look at the whole thing with a much more lighthearted approach, not afraid to poke fun and laugh at the doom awaiting us all. I would certainly classify Richard Kadrey amongst those, at least if we are to base his perspective on one of his latest novels, The Everything Box.
As the novel begins to unfold we are presented with a majestically incompetent angel tasked with ending the remnants of mankind after the great flood. If only he could find where he put the extremely essential doomsday device meant to wipe the Earth of humanity for good. Dejected in his failure to accomplish the mission (and therefore earn a promotion), the angel allows the planet’s history to unfold. Following this, we jump in time to the year 2015 in a world where magic exists and The Department of Peculiar Science is actually an enforcement agency tasked with policing the strange oddities of this world. In this cauldron of chaos lives Coop, a thief specializing in the “acquisition” of magical artifacts. Unbeknownst to him, his latest job had much greater implications than he could have anticipated, certainly much larger than the small box would have led him to believe. As you might predict, what lay inside is much greater than a mere artifact with quaint powers… it’s a doomsday device from ancient times. In the blink of an eye, it seems the whole world is ironically out to put their hands on it… essentially precipitating a race to certain doom. The angel might finally get his promotion after all.
A Melting Pot of Monstrosities
To begin with, I think it’s important to note The Everything Box is far from being a serious novel, meaning, from my perspective at least, entertainment is king and more important than anything else, even the plot itself. As such, there is a rather vast cast of characters for us to become acquainted with, and Richard Kadrey seems to have gone all out on the fantasy aspect of their design. There are vampires, ghouls, goblins, angels, devils, and virtually any other creature you would deem correct to find in a fantasy landscape.
Their designs are inherently humorous and poke fun at various tropes of the genres from which they emerge, and I especially appreciated the design of the bar at the mall where they all gather in secret. They all have their own stories to follow and ridiculously convenient powers to laugh at, and even though more often than not they make little to no progress in regards to the main plot, they remain a valuable faucet of comedic gold. I highly doubt you will form any emotional attachments to them or become as engaged as you would with a serious novel, but so long as your expectations match this reality I don’t see it as a problem.
The Insanity of Fantasy
If there is one aspect in which this book never lacks it’s creativity. The main plot itself, following Coop’s travails and everyone’s hunt for the doomsday device, is one equal parts fascinating and hilarious. One page will have you laughing out loud, the next one will make you gasp in awe, and the third one will lead you to ponder on whether or not there is some truth in all of this. The plot never really stands still and is always shifting in one way or another, taking a whole lot of pride in feeding us one twist after the next. While in my opinion the ending did lack a bit in terms of closure, it’s nothing drastic which can’t be overlooked.
While this certainly isn’t a Sandman Slim novel, it does seem to abide by the general rules of this world. At heart though, it remains a romp through a world of vivid 60s fantasy, very light in its nature even when dealing with a topic such as the end of the world. Speaking of which, I found it very refreshing to read an apocalyptic book without all the doom and gloom of most other novels in the genre. Ultimately, it felt like Richard Kadrey used this book as a canvas to let his imagination run wild, free and unconstrained, making for something quite different than what we are used to seeing from him.
The Final Verdict
With all things being said and done, The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey is a novel primarily designed to entertain the reader and make them laugh out loud from the first page to the last one. It has no ambitions to be remembered as a classic or anything of the sort. Rather, it focuses on being the most hilarious fantasy novel it can be while revolving around mysterious magic, paranormal creatures and the apocalypse. I highly recommend this novel if you’re searching for a fantasy comedy unlike any others out there.
Richard Kadrey is an American novelist from San Francisco, as well as a freelance writer and photographer. His greatest claim to fame is the Sandman Slim novel, listed on Barnes & Nobles as one of the thirteen “Best Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Decade”. He has also penned Metrophage and Dead Set, as well as some non-fiction books including The Catalog of Tomorrow and From Myst to Riven.