Warning: Contains Spoilers!
It was a demon of the darkness. Night shadows were no hiding place.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I have to admit that on my first read-through, this book was not endearing itself to me. It had a very tough act to follow – we’d already had a long silence after Whortle’s Hope, and for years before that I’d been used to a certain gothic charm, a certain tragic melodrama, in my Robiny reading. I wanted to feel, when I read a Robin Jarvis offering, that I was being waltzed through a grand and surreal masque of history, fantasy, and folklore, rather like Austen Pickering at Miss Celandine’s Tudor ball in The Fatal Strand. I knew what I liked from this particular author, and with the grimy hyper-reality of its setting, its unprepossessing characters, and its sensationalist, soul-crushing plot, Dancing Jax was just not cutting the mildly minchet-flavoured mustard. That is, until this chapter.
The brief window between here and the end of the book was my Mooncaster moment. I discovered Al Bowlly, found a bona fide tragic Robiny hero in Shaun, experienced a demonic summoning so theatrically horrifying it would make Clive Barker shed a proud tear, and was converted. In fact, the ol’ Robin Jarvis magic worked a little too well, and, for a few chapters at least, I abandoned all good taste and common sense and actually began to wonder if the Ismus was really so gross after all. Thankfully I turned out to be an ‘aberrant’ and snapped out of that fairly quickly, but it was fun while it lasted.
Matt’s Thoughts: Things continue to get increasingly surreal in this chapter, in ways that nobody could have predicted. So we have a Bakelite radio that plays 30s music, draws power from nightmares and lets in creatures from another dimension? As we would say Down Under, ‘Creepy as!’
I don’t know what the exact inspiration for this device is, but it’s an interesting idea. Many a doctor or child-reading specialist (and the odd horror film) has put forward the evils of particular types of mass media, whether it be video games, watching too much TV, the dangers of social media, etc.
So it makes sense that Austerly Fellows would disguise some of what he is doing in the guise of the mass media of his day. Demonic radio sets makes sense. It was a fairly new technology, most people would love the idea of having one, and you could see him giving them out to unsuspecting people, or even groups. Donating them to schools, hospitals and orphanages, perhaps? Either way, it’s pretty diabolical.
Final thing of note is Shaun’s heroic attempt to lead Mauger away rather than let him into the maternity ward. It’s another story, like Shiela going to see Martin, of somebody trying to do something brave – but ultimately ineffective – to stand against the Dancing Jacks evil. In some ways, it’s even more depressing. We perhaps wouldn’t care if more of the self-centred mindless crew of Felixstowe got taken over by Mooncaster, but when bad stuff happens to people who have a spark of goodness, it’s much more heartbreaking.