3 out of 4 stars
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I am Dwarf. That’s Agent Dwarf (my assigned code name) from the Unknown Counterintelligence Agency (UCIA). Our mission: We explore. We learn. We protect.
More than two decades ago, we discovered the Ether. We are now aware of myriads of other dimensions out there inhabited by strange creatures, both friends and foes but mostly the latter. The UCIA HQ houses a gateway to these dimensions (consisting of mirrors angled in a particular way) where we dispatch exploratory probes or highly trained men. (Unfortunately, the creatures can breach the Earth, too, using the same mirror technology.) We hold captive different species to learn their strengths and weaknesses to ensure that we can ably protect the Earth from hostile invasion. We know of different interdimensional creatures, e.g., the Hoochie Coochie Man (HC Man), the Ick, the Edward, and the Poe.
The UCIA (not to be confused with the less popular CIA) is an exclusive agency, and we hire only the best and the brightest. I am weak. I am short. I am ugly. A recruitment glitch brought me here. My job offer turned out to be a hoax hatched by a captured HC Man. I would have sold my soul unwittingly had I signed all the contract pages. Unfortunately for Soul Eater, the HC Man’s monster-boss who craved fried souls, my soul was not delivered. However, I signed enough pages to sever my soul from my body; I have since lived a soulless life. My freed soul latched onto the first soulless living thing it met, a blade of grass. To assuage his guilt over my fate, UCIA leader King took me in as an agent.
As a side effect of my soul’s severance from my body, I have become immortal. At this point, I have died six times fighting different monsters. I am tired of dying and coming back. Soul Eater has also decided to abduct me; he wants to use immortal me to take over the Earth. Sigh!
Will UCIA be able to thwart Soul Eater and his minions from invading the Earth? Will I ever get my soul back and finally rest in holy peace?
Rented Souls is a horror-comedy written by Eirik Moe Dahll-Larsson, with lots of inspiration and encouragement from his girlfriend and their imaginary pets, dog Waffle and cat Palpatine. It’s no wonder that this is an extraordinary work of fiction!
The monsters are definitely scary and vicious, and the gore (human and alien blood of all colors) expected by horror aficionados splatters the pages lavishly. But the horror is happily counterbalanced by the humorous narration of our main protagonist, Agent Dwarf. Dwarf tells the story from what he calls a vertically and soulfully challenged perspective, which is effectively hilarious. We see sarcasm and self-deprecation, as well as a smattering of dirty jokes, none of which are offensive to me. This is my first experience of a horror-comedy novel, although I recall that the film series Ghostbusters is of the same genre.
The characters are a unique lot. The author uses very witty character names. UCIA agents are named after their jobs or physical characteristics. We have Agent Book, the historian, and Agent Swayze, a perpetually shirtless, shoeless macho-man reminiscent of Dirty Dancing actor Patrick Swayze. The monsters: Ick is a viscous glob. The Poe spouts poetry. An Edward (clearly taken from Twilight) is a vampire.
The UCIA agents likewise use idiosyncratic weapons, to each his own. Apart from traditional firepower, each agent has a unique weapon in the form of stakes, crosses, bibles, water guns, and calendars. The key is the user’s absolute faith that the chosen weapon will work against the enemy monsters.
I was engrossed in the fast and furious fight scenes, naturally rooting for the earthlings to best the foes. The fighting was truly edge-of-my-seat suspense all the way. There were a number of cuss words used as expected in adrenaline-charged battles.
As is usual with stories about the supernatural, there are several inexplicable happenings, explained away as science-to-come. I find nothing wrong or unusual with this in a story that deals with the unknown. While the book also safely skirts the controversial topics of religion and God, it defines the soul as the essence of a person. I don’t suppose anyone can argue with this, too.
Reading this book was a delight and left me wanting more. I would have awarded it the perfect rating for the unique ploy of blending hilarity and suspense. Grammar and editorial issues, however, dampened my enthusiasm. Misspellings like “Jaunary” for January, “supressed” for suppressed, and “along” for alone sidetracked me. The author also used semicolons and periods galore, in place of commas or colons. There was a profusion of sentence fragments in Chapter 13. Another round of careful editing would weed out these irritants and clinch another star for the book.
Fans of horror stories and those who enjoy a good laugh will have many hours of fun with this book, which I merrily rate with 3 out of 4 stars. Younger readers may need to look out for the cussing, though. This is surely a book that we earthlings will find worth reading if only to know how not to angle our mirrors at home.
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