Xlibris Publishing reviews City of Devils by Justin Robinson.
Justin Robinson satirizes both Noir Detective stories and Hollywood monster movies…
The story follows Nick Moss, the sole human private eye in Los Angeles. For in this version of Los Angeles, if not the world, monsters rule. City of Devils is an affectionate satire of both the noir private eye genre and monster movies. In this version of Earth, a sizeable portion of humanity was turned into various monsters straight out of folklore and film. Such monsters range from classic vampires and werewolves to more modern robots and fish-people.
Nick Moss is hired by the famous shapeshifter actress Imogen Verity to find her missing husband, a mummy, Juba II. The more Nick digs, the deeper he is drawn into a game where all the other players see him as food. In this strange world, monsters are the dominant majority, occupying the highest paying or highest authority positions: werewolves make up the police force, crawling eyes run the film studios, mummies and vampires tend to be politicians, and shapeshifter actors play the star roles, to name a few examples. Even the laws serve to favour the monsters, with any humans caught outside their homes or failing to properly protect said homes seen as Fair Game in the eyes of the law and monsters. What’s more, oftentimes monsters pursue humans not just to consume them but to turn them into monsters themselves. This is an act humans see as a death of the self, yet the monsters see no problem at all.
This is where the novel takes an interesting turn, while the satire of both noir and monster genres is clear and entertaining, the satire also clearly serves a purpose. In the case of City of Devils, it seems the author is also expressing a message regarding race relations and power dynamics. As has been stated above, monsters get preferential treatment in terms of job placement and treatment by the law. The only way demonstrated within the novel to truly advance one’s lot in life is to completely abandon one’s old identity (and humanity) and replace it with a monstrous one.
While an enjoyable and fun read, City of Devils also performs one of the key aspects of satire that elevate it above just being a source of humor. Good satire is used to make a point, to raise awareness, or spin perspective in a novel way so as to reach a wider readership. While many novels and genres have had social commentary as longstanding staples, satire does so through humor and parody. Satire can help make a difficult topic more palatable to readers, as it can be easier to approach a heavy topic with a light-hearted tone. It can create unlikely and ludicrous scenarios that nonetheless offer a new perspective the reader might never have considered on their own. My primary critique with City of Devils is that, even by satire standards it has all the subtlety of an oncoming train, for good or for ill.
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By Ian Smith