Black Goat Blues: All the pieces are in place for a killer third installment

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Black Goat Blues by Levi BlackBlack Goat Blues by Levi BlackBlack Goat Blues by Levi Black

Levi Black’s Black Goat Blues (2017) is the follow-up to his fantastically twisted horror novel Red Right Hand, and while it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, Black Goat Blues is still a compulsive page-turner that I couldn’t put down until I’d reached the end. Warning: it is essential that you read these books in order. Seriously.

Charlie Tristan Moore is now in possession of a sentient angel-skin coat and eldritch magicks of her own, thanks to the “generosity” of some elder gods in Red Right Hand. Her best friend, Daniel, is deep in a coma after the horrors he experienced at Nyarlathotep’s hands, and Charlie is convinced that destroying Nyarlathotep (he of the Red Right Hand, as well as innumerable other appellations) will return Daniel’s soul to his body; killing the Man in Black before he achieves his goal of collecting three soul-gems from other elder gods will also prevent unspeakably bad things from happening to the whole of existence, so that’s a nice bonus.

Red Right Hand: A Story of the Mythos War by Levi Black (July 25, 2017)

Book 1

Even with some pretty impressive augmentation and deadly weapons, Charlie is still only (mostly) human, and she hasn’t had much luck in tracking down her quarry. Along the way, she receives some unexpected company from a young man named Javier, who’s got his own dark secrets and bottomless anger, and the fallen goddess Ashtoreth, once worshipped as Ishtar. Their combined determination is enough to bring them to the court of The King in Yellow, but will it be enough to stop the Son of Azazoth before reality as they know it is undone?

Black Goat Blues wears its influences proudly, and Black does a superb job of incorporating classic elements of Weird tales in with the modern story he’s telling. In particular, the court of the King in Yellow is a ghastly place, and he and his minions are terrifying. The dichotomy between the plane of existence experienced by humans and the layers of reality beyond is put to good use, along with the growing distance between Charlie and “regular” people like Javier. Charlie’s continued exposure to magick and otherworldly forces is changing her, sometimes by degrees and sometimes by leaps and bounds, and I’m curious to see what awaits in the next MYTHOS WAR book.

On the other hand, much of what made Red Right Hand so inventive is repeated in Black Goat Blues, and the repetitions often ring hollow. Charlie needs a human sidekick to draw magickal energy from, and Daniel’s in a coma, so Javier provides the impetus for expository dialogue and acts as hostage to the cruel whims of immortal beings. Her quest can’t be completed without divine aid of some kind, and where Nyarlathotep acted as guide and mentor in the previous book, Ashtoreth steps in this time. An elder god is in the same predicament, though with a shift in confinement and end result, as a god in Red Right Hand. That’s not to say Black Goat Blues was boring or that the ending was predictable — neither would be true — but there were times that it seemed that the narrative was walking in circles rather than a straight line.

Thus far, the MYTHOS WAR is shaping up to be an interesting series. Levi Black’s work challenges many of my expectations, and the way he adapts (or doesn’t) the conventions of the Weird genre surprises me. After two books, I think he’s got all the pieces in place for a killer third installment, and I’m dying to see where those pieces land when they fall.

Published November 7, 2017. In Red Right Hand, Charlie Tristan Moore was thrust into a nightmarish world of lurking Lovecraftian horrors when The Man In Black, a diabolical Elder God, chose her as his unwilling Acolyte. Discovering her own power, Charlie ultimately defied The Man In Black, but at a cost. Now armed with a magic coat made from the skin of a flayed angel, Charlie is out to destroy The Man In Black and save her boyfriend Daniel―and she doesn’t care how many bloodthirsty gods and monsters get in her way…

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, and Philip Pullman.

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5 comments

  1. I was loving these titles and when you got to the part about the Weird, I was in. And I will read them in order.

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