The Book of Doom is the most important object in existence – a database that records and controls everything that has happened and is yet to happen. When it goes missing from its home in Heaven, apparently stolen by the Devil, the duplicitous angels Gabriel and Michael decide to recruit Zac, Earth’s most resourceful young thief, to recover it. This involves having him murdered, then sent to the underworld in the company of a wimpy mongrel angel who is a fan of both the Incredible Hulk and gentle Jesus.
Thereafter, several varieties of Hell are let loose: an hilarious conga in Valhalla, a riot in a nightclub in Hades, and a climactic encounter with the Dark Lord himself in the glistening vivisection lab which constitutes the Inferno’s newly built tenth circle. (‘Try not to touch anything,’ Satan advises. ‘The paint’s still wet.’)
This is a rollicking great novel, the second in Hutchison’s Afterworlds series, an unholy hybrid of Dante, Pratchett and Monty Python. While older children and adults in search of anarchic entertainment with a flavour of mildly pungent blasphemy about it will be delighted by this book, there are also big, ambitious themes to be glimpsed amidst the relentless gush of slapstick carnage and bathetic one-liners. A warm sense of human solidarity is kindled by the friction between angels and demons, and the semi-denouement is both intriguing and moving. Highly recommended for fans of comedic action and theological farce, and as therapeutic fiction in faith schools.