Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – and everything in between!’ he exulted. ‘A most heartfelt greeting to you all. Here we are – we made it: the night before Christmas when, all through the house, everyone will be reading Fighting Pax!’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: What makes this trilogy so remarkable is that Mr Jarvis could have played the story of Dancing Jax completely straight. We might’ve got a traditional horror tale in which a deceased occultist possesses a petty thief to take over the world in Satan’s name. That would’ve been perfectly fine, but instead, we got this surreal discussion of evil in all its forms, and the truly horrific mental image of Austerly Fellows in skintight leather.
Instead of focusing solely on traditional villainous antics like world domination or dark magic, Robin has stopped and asked what an old-fashioned villain might look like if you punted them into 2010. The black robes and occult doings are all well and bad, but in the digital age, with its celebrity culture and its mass media, they’re a little outdated. So what are the new evils, the ones that will pull an audience? Brainwashing? A soulless hunger for fame and power at the sacrifice of all else including basic human decency? The absence of a benevolent higher being? This Ismus is all of these, and more.
There’s also the YA parody aspect, which at this point is blazingly obvious. Of course a diabolical occultist would also be a celebrity, dictator, and social media influencer all at once, if he found himself in the modern age. Of course he would stage his world takeover like a tacky reality TV show, with audience votes on how his enemies should perish. Of course he would have a twenty-minute guitar solo before summoning Satan and plunging all of humanity into a hell on earth.
AF’s grand plan isn’t thrilling and chilling – it doesn’t make us boo while secretly rooting for him. It’s tasteless and bombastic, typical of Austerly Fellows but entirely lacking substance, because, like everything in this trilogy, he himself is a parody character. In the grandest irony of all, even the Ismus isn’t real.
Matt’s Thoughts: One can only speculate whether Mr Jarvis has a slight anti-Christmas streak that runs through his veins. Or whether he quite likes Christmas and has therefore crafted something that horrifies himself as well.
Wherever it comes from in his imagination, it’s fevered and diabolical.
The to-the-death gameshow has obviously been done in The Hunger Games but not on this kind of level. It’s the combination of Christmas TV spectacular, gameshow and ruthless sadism that makes this finale like nothing I’ve ever read before. (Or are ever likely to read again.) Not to mention the running commentary from the Ismus, a sort of manic cross between Richard Dawkins and Russell Brand.
Again, I don’t know why this trilogy works so well, when it throws so many different ideas together. By rights, the whole thing should have fallen apart by now. But instead, I don’t want to stop reading …