Book: The Everything Box
Author: Richard Kadrey
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Lucifer is not just a name. God’s angels are more than a myth. Magic is everywhere. Oddities are a way of life. And humour is the official language in this parallel universe. If you want to stun your imagination and tickle it too, turn to the first page of The Everything Box. Throughout the book, different cults, criminals and other-worldly beings set up traps to set off the apocalypse. The end of the world is no joke, of course. But in a Richard Kadrey novel, it’s got to be the funniest, silliest, quirkiest one to be narrated.
It all starts with Qaphsiel, the angel of office supplies (yeah, right!)—out to prove his mettle to his boss (God) in return for a promotion. How? By finishing off what God started with the mighty flood. But when he reaches for the holy object of humanity’s doom, he realises: it’s gone. The continuous yet hilarious game of lost-and-found occurs in the form of a comedy of errors. While the narrative revolves around the world of magic that effortlessly fits into the real world, you come across an odd set of characters with weird abilities. The lead character and master conman, Coop uses his own unusual gift, stumbling over a series of hurdles as the object of destruction transfers from one set of dangerous hands to another. Needless to say, none of them are upto any good. But if there is something that remains constant through the madness, it’s Coop’s grim-faced, insipid approach to life—one that’s pointed out and mocked over by the others in the story. Whether it is Phil, the poltergeist who sings under stress, Nelson, the big-mouthed cop with a penchant for alcohol or Salzman, the walking dead guy bossing over the agents of the department of Peculiar Science; the book has a line-up of interesting characters and snarky dialogues. So get used to having a smile on your face, everytime you pick it up.
As the book progresses, the plot thickens with a ridiculous number of kidnaps and a relevant insight into the cults of religious fanatics. Seen from Kadrey’s lens, these believers of the supernatural leave you in splits as they fight amongst themselves to revoke their “true God” and thus set off the apocalypse. They run amok like headless chickens, trying to serve their make-belief Gods and prove their loyalty. But in vain. They often find themselves getting played over by their blind beliefs and as a result, arrive at absurd conclusions—as they try to baselessly credit their Gods (and their will) for the happenings around them.
The author also shows you that goodness doesn’t come by profession. Coop the con-man steals the show with his principles and honourable work ethics while corruption runs deep in the veins of the cops at large. Kadrey ridicules the world we live in, in the most honest, upright and merciless way—and depends heavily on sarcasm while he’s at it. Between mobsters, monsters, myths, legends and some amount of reality, he builds and rebuilds the story till you predict the end. And then, he pricks the bubble that he has labourously inflated, to result in an ending that comes crashing down. But the best part is that you actually enjoy the journey that leads to the crash, just like a roller coaster ride—you know how it’ll end but you enjoy the ride nonetheless.
The book is centred around the themes of friendship and love. Besides being an easy read, it’s also easily relatable. As Coop finds himself working with his ex-lover, anyone who has been in a relationship can empathise with his discomfort and comical awkwardness. His love-hate relationship with Morty—his only friend, shows you his internal resolve and loyalty. In retrospect, Richard Kadrey’s The Everything Box is the love-child of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, the literature of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett’s masterpieces and Neil Gaiman’s legendary prose. It’s a clever mix of detective noir, supernatural thriller, wayward sci-fi and serious comedy. That’s something by itself. And reason enough to get you running to the nearest bookstore.
By and large, this piece of fiction is seriously close to reality even with the rampant use of surreal elements. It’s a bizarre, manic take on science fiction and fantasy that’ll make you think—when seen through the right lens, even the hardest, most painful things in life can bring a smile on your face. And even the end of the world, is not necessarily the end of the world.