Heraclix & Pomp is a book that feels much older than it is, and that is most definitely a compliment. In reading it, one can't help but wonder if what Forrest Aguirre has really done is uncover a lost masterpiece of the 18th century, edit it, clean it up, and present it for our enjoyment. Yes, there are some very 21st century flourishes to the prose, particularly in the sense of weird humor, but the language, the storyline, and the mythology all hearken back to an earlier era.
What we have here is a story about death, a story about redemption, and a story about justice. There's actually more to it than that - this is a very philosophical read - but those are the three themes that stand out most strongly, and which permeate the entire text.
Heraclix is a golem, an 18th precursor to Frankenstein, crafted not out of clay but out of stolen and scavenged body parts. A magical man without a memory, a man crafted from death, he seeks to learn what life is all about. Pomp, on the other hand, is a fairy or a sprite, a happy go lucky magical being who had no concept of death until the cruelties of Mowler saw their respective mortalities cross paths. As for Mowler, he is an evil sorcerer, a repugnant human being who has been bargaining with Beelzebub for centuries to cheat his own death. Beelzebub himself, not to mention the flies over which he is Lord, are another element of death that permeates the text, as are the ghosts who quite literally haunt the tale.
Like I said, this is also a story about redemption, with Heraclix seeking to atone for the crimes of his various body parts, particularly his hand - which tends to have a cruel life of its own. Pomp is also seeking redemption of a sort, having come to regret the cruel tricks of her past, as she comes to understand concepts such as cruelty, death, and the past. The healer being haunted by the ghosts, whose own story is also part of Heraclix's tale, is another man trapped and defined by his efforts to redeem the crimes of his past. Even the poor young errand boy, who did nothing more than deliver that ominous hand, is seeking redemption not for his own evil, but for his association with it, and the cruelties it inflicted on his mother.
Justice, of course, is intimately tied in with the pursuit of redemption, but it also touches on the more banal, political side of the tale. There are alliances, allegiances, and partnerships throughout the book, all of which draw the characters together and ultimately define the beginning and the end of Heraclix & Pomp's epic journey. For, make no mistake, this is very much the tale of a journey, one that descends into the very depths of Hell, before returning to cross the landscape of the known world.
Weirdly humorous and wondrously magical, Heraclix & Pomp is a book that you'll feel like you should have read before, and which you'll be delighted to find you don't in fact remember. Like Pomp herself, learning the concept of remembering along with that of 'before' and 'yet', the reader is somewhat trapped between expectations and experiences. The narrative is exquisite, the language fantastic, and the physical depictions - particularly of hell and the flies - almost too vivid to endure. It's a book that grabs you from the opening chapter, so grab yourself a copy, introduce yourself to our three main characters, and settle in for an adventure of another age.
Hardcover, 280 pages
Expected publication: October 2014 by Resurrection House/Underland Press