I read a lot, so I know what I like and don’t like. Little things will often make me put down a book right away: like when a male author tries to write in a female voice (or vice versa), or when the author has a gimmick like the book is told through an internet blog, or when the narrator is so fascinated by a secondary character that the secondary character would have to be God on earth for me to be fascinated by her. Jim Munroe does all three of these things in An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, and still I loved this book. It just goes to show how skilled of an author Munroe is: he can take clichés and turn them on their ass.
An Opening Act is a book about Kate, an artist type in Toronto whose roommate happens to be a demon. Kate accidentally walks in on one of her roommate’s demonic rituals, and she’s immediately fascinated. She first convinces Lilith (the roommate from hell) to perform the demonic ritual at gallery showing that Kate is promoting. The ritual gets such a great reception that Kate gets the idea to take the show on the road. She schedules a seven-city tour with Lilith and two more sidekicks who they pick up along the way. As the book and the tour progress, things get more bizarre. Strange men from Lilith’s past start appearing. The rituals get more intense. Kate and the two sidekicks are drawn in, and the tour keeps growing. They end up adding more dates at the end, and working their way down to New Orleans, the spot where the supernatural has room to become the natural.
As with any tour, the characters meet a bunch of interesting people along the way. They come to understand more about themselves and their subculture, and, as readers, we get to feel like we’re on tour with them. We get to establish that bond that you can only form by travelling around the country in a weird, underground bubble, sleeping on floors and smelling each others odors and giving away deep secrets on long drives across middle America. In this way, the book is an extended, fictional tour diary. Really, though, with its rounded characters and lucid social commentary, it’s much more than that. Lilith the demon is a pretty interesting character. I’m never as fascinated by her as Kate is, but it’s okay because Kate—who swerved off the path towards yuppiedom and became one of us—is so engaging, she trumps Lilith. I also enjoyed this book because I’ve actually followed the same path that these characters take on tour. I’ve performed at some of the real life bookstores where they perform, and I know the roads they take. This adds layers to my reading. Still, the book’s enjoyable even if you haven’t gone on this tour. It’s fun just to watch the ravenhead dance, to see the angel get stabbed, and to feel like you’re part of the show. –Sean (No Media Kings, www.nomediakings.com)