European Review of Speculative Fiction

Andor Bochenkov

Title: Esoterrorism

Author: C.T.Phipps 

Somewhere, at some convention, writers sit around at three am, daring one another to write the impossible book. It’s The Night Watch, but starring Vin Diesel, filmed Bourne style by Paul Greengrass – in a book. Yeah, and the plot comes from a fanfic mash-up of NCIS and James Bond. Gasps and chuckles. With a demonic sex vampire. And an angry super powerful ex-wife. Ooh, savage. Yeah, but it’s grimdark and the fan writing it is Alan F$%ing Moore. At which point, C.T. Phipps cracked his knuckles, scoffed at danger, and produced Esoterrorism.

Still, being C.T.Phipps, he couldn’t resist sticking a giant literary fork in the eye of several prominent urban fantasy authors famous for their iconic and at times kitschy characters. You want kitschy? Esoterrorism will fill the bathtub with kitsch, then toss a toaster in while you’re soaking up the nostalgic vibes. At times rhapsodic homage to spy thrillers, at times a savage bite out of the trendiest BS served up by urban fantasy and action-adventures, the novel barrels ahead tossing its antiheros into a series of escalating disasters which embrace mind control, destiny, the nature of madness and revenge, and the burning question of what makes a person free. But, you know, with explosions and sex vampires.

As a motivated but rebellious senior agent of the Red Room, Derek Hawthorne –half dragon secret agent / seducer extraordinaire – has been slacking his way through a long career involving equal parts misery, betrayal, negotiating naked, and shooting things when something awful happens in an Ohio shopping mall. Which being a slacker seducer gunfighter killer negotiator desperado antihero he needs to overcome in classic yet eye twanging style. With sex vampires and explosions. If that doesn’t convince you to read this, what will?

The skewed universe of the Red Room submerges Derek in a world drowning with anguish, false choices, triple crosses, and well justified paranoia. But with sexy banter, explosive action, and a whole lot of spiraling chaos that tosses out a dozen Chekhov’s guns and then fires each of them into the epicenter of wherever poor Derek happens to be. Just when you’re sure Phipps has been screwing with you, he reels back the action to toss in an emotional grenade full of impossible decisions, coercion and cruelty, as well as the constant specter of the Real World’s more obvious sins of human trafficking, war profiteering, sociopaths running governments, and maybe, just maybe, our own joyful complacence in the face of monumental (and screamingly obvious) evil.

And he does it while Saving the Worldä with, yes indeed, explosions and sex vampires.