September 14th, 2011


Temporary Monsters & The Ash Angels

I'd like to thank whoever invented the subgenre of wisecracking PI-types who operate in a world where monsters and the supernatural are real. I haven't read any iterations of this scenario that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed, and that includes Ian Rogers' two Felix Renn novellas, both of which are available as chapbooks from Burning Effigy Press.

The first, Temporary Monsters, introduces us to world-weary Toronto PI Felix Renn, as well as his ex-wife Sandra, who becomes a surprisingly effective recurring character, his government foil/friend Agent Keel, and the Black Lands, a sunless dimension that exists beside our own, and from where all the supernatural threats stem. Renn is a fun character, relying on wit (and wittiness) in the face of the unknown, and in this first adventure he gets caught up in the case of two big time movie stars who suddenly and inexplicably become deadly monsters: a vampire and a werewolf, to be exact. Renn traces their footsteps back to a mysterious night club and a low-level mobster selling a new kind of drug straight from the Black Lands.

With the emphasis more on a sense of wonder than dread or terror--the supernatural is nothing new in Felix Renn's Toronto--Temporary Monsters dwells in the gray area between horror and fantasy. It is essentially an urban fantasy, or what urban fantasy was for a short time before it became synonymous with tattooed female slayers and their supernatural bad-boy boyfriends. It's also a bit fluffy, more fun than frightening, but that's not a complaint. In fact, it's what kept me reading, because I was having such a good time with it.

The sequel, The Ash Angels, is more overtly horror than Temporary Monsters, but that overarching sense of fun and wittiness is still there. This time, strange burned silhouettes--ash angels--are appearing throughout Toronto and causing witnesses to attempt suicide. It's a great set up, though I have to admit a twinge of disappointment at the somewhat mundane explanation for the events. I'm hoping this is only the tip of the iceberg and that the ash angels will be explored further in future adventures.

Speaking of which, Rogers has a third Renn novella scheduled for release from Burning Effigy Press soon, and I couldn't be more excited about it. I could read a dozen more Felix Renn supernatural adventures--they're fresh, exciting, and bitingly funny. Rogers also has a collection coming from ChiZine Publications in the next year or two, and I'm hoping there'll be some Renn in there as well. But even if there isn't, these two novellas have certainly piqued my interest in seeing what else Rogers has got up his sleeve.