Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Sabat 1: The Graveyard Vultures

I haven't read any Guy N. Smith novels in a while, so you know what that means. Time for me to go on Sabatical...

In the Sabat novels Guy N. Smith attempted to create a memorable lead character that could sustain an ongoing adventure series. Let's face it, Professor Cliff Davenport may be the world's sexiest megacarcinologist, but even the giant crabs tend to outshine him in the personality department. Enter Mark Sabat. Ex-priest. SAS-trained killer. Exorcist. Pipe enthusiast. I don't know if it's a coincidence that he bears a striking resemblance to Guy N. Smith himself, but if he's some sort of wish-fulfillment Mary Sue character it reveals far more about the author than I ever wanted to know.

When the story begins Sabat is tracking down his evil brother Quentin, who is engaging in some sort of apocalyptic black magic ritual. Sabat blows his brother's brains all over the walls but because Sabat's spiritual faith wavered Quentin's black soul still remains, trapped inside him forever. Throughout the rest of the book Quentin telepathically insults and belittles Sabat, trying to break his faith and goad him into suicide, like the worst life coach ever. Quentin is supposed to be the ultimate incarnation of evil, although if that makes Sabat the ultimate incarnation of good then it paints a pretty bleak portrait of humanity.

Sabat has a pretty interesting resume. A mysterious teenage homosexual encounter drove him into the priesthood (I can't wait to read more about that particuar plot point) until he lost his faith and quit. Then he joined the SAS and became an expert killer, until he was dishonourably discharged for having kinky sex with his CO's wife (i.e. being too awesome). Now he's a freelance exorcist, using his powers of astral projection to spy on people doing it and occasionally stop an evil cult from bringing about armaggedon, assuming the local clergy can pony up the cash.

For all his awesomeness, Sabat has one weakness: boners. Any stray sexy thoughts and he enters the bone-zone, even when he's on the astral plane. Just meeting a pretty woman is all but guaranteed to have an erection "straining against the fabric of his pants". Must make for some pretty awkward first dates. Often he's forced to take matters into his own hands, so to speak, and a couple of times it's implied that he spent all night jerking off in bed. It's pretty weird. Is this Smith's idea of an awesome dude? Sabat should really see a doctor. Priapism is a serious condition.

Another thing about Sabat is that he's alarmingly callous about death. There's a strange bit where Sabat plows his car into a random motorcyclist while he is speeding to the rescue. The guy is eviscerated in the crash, spilling his guts all over the road, and Sabat doesn't even slow down. He chalks it up to an act of God and leaves it to some other motorist to call in the authorities. Who do you think you are Sabat, Halle Berry? Motorcycle Guy's connection to the plot is extremely tangential, so the only point of that chapter seems to be to illustrate that Sabat is a complete sociopath. Mission accomplished!

In this adventure the Archbishop calls in Sabat to investigate a small village where a pesky Satanic cult are involved in virgin sacrifices and necrophilic orgies. Sabat snoops about on both the physical and astral planes, and there's a pretty cool bit where he has a psychic battle with zombies in the graveyard, cutting them up with a giant crucifix. He psychically-rapes the lead zombie into submission, recognising her as Miranda, a prostitute he met in the pub. Afterwards he shows up at her doorstep and when she tries to kill him he rapes her for real. It's cool though, he was just doing it to break the spell the cult leader had put over her. You know how it is.

At first this book seemed to be straight up Judeo-Christian good versus evil, but partway through they start casually throwing Voodoo into the mix. I liked the way Sabat interacted with the various Voodoo gods and played them off against eachother, but when the bad guy turned out to be some sort of Satan-worshipping Voodoo priest it all got a bit confusing. There are a couple of gory human sacrifices and a botched demon resurrection. By the end of it all the cult members are dead with hoof prints on their heads, like Satan appeared and delivered unto them roundhouse kicks to the head, Steven Seagal style.

You know, I really liked this book. It's basically everything that makes Guy N. Smith so enjoyably trashy, turned up to eleven. Gory deaths? Check. Strained metaphors? Check. Bizarre sex scenes? Check. Inappropriate boners? Hella checks. All condensed into 160 pages. Mark Sabat makes for a pretty entertaining and memorable lead character, although if you find yourself relating to him on any level then you should probably seek professional help.

No comments: