Title: Josh of the Damned Triple Feature (Josh of the Damned 3)
Author: Andrea Speed
Cover art: L.C. Chase
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Buy link: Buy Link Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1
Genre: Paranormal M/M
Length: 22,300 words/66 PDF pages/Short stories
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Summary review: Author’s trademark humor and imagination are present, but the series still doesn’t have a clear direction and character development is too slow.
Blurb: What most people call a hellish shift, Josh Caplan calls a normal evening. After all, he works nights at a convenience store beside the mouth of hell, selling snacks to zombies and lizard men.
Some monsters are odder—and more dangerous—than most. Like the rampaging, oversized mustache who skips the Pringles and eats the customers instead. Or Cthulhu’s half-brother Stan, who doesn’t know how to take no for an answer . . . or where to put all those tentacles.
But killer facial hair and inept hentai beasts pale in comparison to the monster even other monsters fear. When hell’s big boss demands a sit-down with Josh, she reveals a destiny bigger than he’d ever imagined—or wanted. You’d think preventing the apocalypse would net Josh more than minimum wage and a hot vampire boyfriend, but it turns out saving the world can be a pretty thankless job.
Last time we met Josh Caplan, he was being courted by an amorous yeti. This time he comes back in three short stories: Night of the Mustache, I Was Cthulhu’s Love Slave and Interview with the Empire. I have to admit that I started giggling just reading these titles. The vintage-horror-poster-like cover was truly refreshing and very fitting for these stories.
I always appreciated Ms. Speed’s humor and these stories have it in spades. Her imagination is a thing of wonder, but, even after reading these three stories, I’m not sure where this series is going. The overreaching arc was moving in infinitesimal steps, if at all, for four stories (two previously published and two in this collection) and then the twist, the action and additional world information were all packed in the last one. And, while the world itself got bigger, I hoped for more character development to support it. I was ready to see who Josh and Colin were outside Quik-Mart and each other, what they were to each other, what they could offer us – the readers – except a few chuckles. And, while we got bits and pieces, I expected more. This is, of course, only my opinion and other readers might feel differently.
While Josh of the Damned series isn’t a romance, the relationship between Josh and Colin is a big part of it. The progress of their relationship is impossible to judge because we don’ know the timeline (something I complained about in the last review as well). How much time passed since they’ve met? Since they’ve got together? It is clear that Josh has some trust issues, since Colin is not very forthcoming about his past, but he also allows Colin to bite him, which is certainly a big deal.
Out of the three stories, the first one worked the least for me. It was bizarre, it didn’t move the plot forward and the entire “can’t remember having sex” situation made me uncomfortable. I Was Cthulhu’s Love Slave was, in my opinion, the best story in this collection and, frankly, it made me laugh from beginning to end. This is one of those stories that make you want to live in the author’s brain. A squid-like creature – Stan – comes to Quik-Mart intending to get up close and personal with Josh. He also has plans for world domination. Josh, Colin and Bobo (the yeti!) have to deal with the aggressive and hilarious creature.
Several things worked in this story. One of them was Josh, who is working on Christmas Eve. He is obviously lonely and feels isolated. This is a new side of Josh, a good contrast to his usual laid-back self, which made me even more curious about his life. You also have to admire his quick wit in the craziest situations. The story gives us a piece of information about Josh’s boss – Mr. Kwon – that could have interesting implications for Josh as well. The pace of the story was great, but the best part of it was the author’s trademark humor. I understand that humor is pretty much subjective, but the author’s humor really works for me.
“What kind of pathetic tentacle rape monster are you? You can’t even get the holes right!“
“You will not mock me, human! Kneel before your god!”
“I’m an agnostic.”
Colin calling Stan “calamari” and “octopussy” also gave me giggle fits. 🙂
The final story – Interview with the Empire – jumpstarts the plot in an unexpected direction and I am still not sure how I feel about it. Up to this point, we were given the image of monsters as alien, potentially dangerous, but generally quirky beings. Colin was nothing more than a vampire hottie, always prepared to come to Josh’s rescue. Things change when a messenger from Colin’s dimension (Gary the Reverse Tooth Fairy!) arrives with a summons for Josh from Colin’s boss. Josh is unwilling to go, so Colin basically kidnaps him and takes him to Dev, his world. There Josh discovers that monsters aren’t really that friendly and that there is more to his boyfriend than meets the eye. He also gets recruited into saving the world.
This story should have worked, because things have finally moved away from Quik-Mart and Colin finally showed some personality. But what brought the story down for me was Colin’s boss – Medusa. It was difficult for me to see her as anything but a bad movie mafia boss. Even in fantasy we need some measure of plausibility and motivation and the whole “You have to do this or else” exchange left me pretty annoyed. The situation didn’t show Colin in a good light either, so it’s hard to say what Josh sees in him except his looks. I was also ticked off with the fact that Colin doesn’t know much of anything about his world since most of Josh’s questions always remain unanswered. I found that hard to believe and it made me question his character even more.
Additionally, the situation for which Josh was summoned in front of Medusa was resolved by the end of the story, again with help from Colin and Bobo. It is unclear if it was resolved completely or if it will be explored more in the future. The story didn’t lack humor though. This was the point where I almost choked laughing:
“Think of me as the minimum wage Gandalf —you shall not pass.”
In the end, the entertainment value of this collection was high. If all you are looking for is a good laugh, this is certainly the book for you. As someone who followed this series from the beginning, I hoped to learn more about the characters and the general direction the story will take in the future. Perhaps the author has spoiled me in the past. 🙂