Author Ian Weir
Things You Might Like
- Evangelist character who’s not a horrid, inhuman jerk
- Victorian London
- The creepiness of the Devil
- Wide range of narrators
Things You Might Not Like
- Semi-forced humor from William Piper
- Similarity Jack and Jaunty’s narration
- Obvious plot twist
Daniel O’Thunder is a fun little book about a prize-fighter’s quest to defeat the devil. A nice, quick, and fun read.
3 out of 5 Rigged Mills
I believe that the last time I tried to read a Dickens novel, my eyes bled and I heard in my head the calling of a thousand demons, screeching my name in their eldritch language and, I believe, rejoicing in my imminent demise. I shortly closed the book and have not stopped cursing Dickens’s name.
See, it has to do with the way Victorian literature is written: That unmistakable superfluous verbiage which describes in every minute detail every crevice, bump, pimple, whisker, or abnormality upon a character’s visage before moving on to the exact cut, content, makeup, color, source, and history of that character’s clothing.
Of course, there’s a good reason for all of that: Writers like Dickens wrote for newspapers and were paid by the word. So, while A Tale of Two Cities is indisputably a master work of the English language, it’s a big son of a bitch because Dickens had to feed his family somehow. And that, of course, can be applied to every novel under his belt. The way we read them now isn’t exactly how they were meant to be read—so when you tackle them and their often-repetitive chapters, it’s daunting.
All of the above is why I bloody love contemporary authors who write in a 19th century style. Take Drood by Dan Simmons, a brilliant mystery/horror novel narrated by Wilkie Collins in the depths of opium madness. While it’s length keeps it from being beach reading, the book’s a great example of what can be done with a lot of research and a lot of imagination.
So, when I was wandering the Nashville Public Library, looking for a book to read, I came across Daniel O’Thunder by Canadian author, Ian Weir. The book follows the story of the titular former prize-fighter, turned evangelist as he works to create a safe haven for the poor, disenfranchised, and otherwise trodden-upon in mid-19th-century London.
His work attracts the attention of none other than the Devil, who, naturally, stalks the streets in these rough and tumble times. The Enemy, unhappy that a mortal has the gall to attempt to save the weak, takes it upon himself to ruin O’Thunder in whatever way he can.
O’Thunder is not to be shaken, though, as his former comrade-in-arms and pugilism trainer, Jaunty, has set up a couple of fights in the boxing ring. O’Thunder chooses to use these fights as a way to spread his message of salvation through Jesus, and, from there, to issue a direct challenge to the Devil.
The book is told through four points of view: Nell the prostitute, Jaunty the trainer, Jack the former priest, and Piper the newsman. Though Jaunty and Jack blend together diction-and-tone-wise, the characters are pretty easy to tell apart, and, considering the importance of Nell and Piper to the stories, you probably won’t grow bored.
(I should note that Piper was my favorite narrator by far. Weir really lathered on the humor and added a nice Woody Allen touch to this character that made him incredibly sympathetic. However, if seriousness and straight-forward plot development are your things, then you’ll despise him.)
And, it shouldn’t surprise you, there’s an appearance by Unreliable Narrator. Yes, it sort of had to happen in a novel about the Devil, and yes, it won’t surprise you when it’s revealed, but hey, the fun’s in the journey, not the destination, right?
Another good thing about this book: If your knowledge of Victorian society isn’t complete, then you’ll walk away with a bit more knowledge than you had before. (Who am I kidding? I’m addressing the Bullet Reviews readership—an eclectic mix of Victorian scholars and 200 year-old individuals.) If you don’t want to know anything about it, though, never fear! The history isn’t written to intrude upon the story.
And hey, you might start getting an interest in pugilism, which reads pretty much like this:
Oh, one more thing for all of you. Kind of a homework assignment.
I want you all to read this book—because it is damn good—and then go read a brief history of the Salvation Army. Say, here.
You done? Good. Now, your Comment Section Question of the Day is: Is Daniel O’Thunder a loose allegory for the Salvation Army? Discuss.
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