Southern Gods is one of those books that can be glibly, though accurately, summed up with a trite phrase. In this case it would be “Cajun Cthulhu”. The title holds great promise on what turns out to be a strangely small scale adventure considering the subject matter of gods trying to destroy our world.
The story begins by following the lead of hired muscle “Bull” Ingram, a giant of a man who has been tasked by a DJ to track down a man he’s sent out to sell records to local radio stations. As Ingram journeys across the 1951 south he uncovers dark horrors that suggest the very world itself may be in peril due to malevolent and ancient gods trying to bust on through.
The early chapters are promising. Ingram is a rough but likable kind of lug and the mystery behind the pirate radio station that broadcasts music to go crazy by, along with Hastur, a devilish Blues musician, are set up nicely. Things start to come apart at the Ruby, a nightclub Ingram goes to in order to meet–and kill–Hastur. The scene is a literal orgy of violence that sets in motion the rest of the events and despite the author’s loving attention to every gory detail, the depiction fell flat for me. As I mentioned in the Broken Forum thread and in agreeing there with another poster, Drastic, when you’re openly invoking the Cthulhu mythos as Jacobs does here, sure you can bring your own take to the material but if you stray too far it’s no longer really Cthulhu anymore but its own thing. That in itself isn’t bad but reducing the Necronomicon to a book filled with grotesque imagery that makes you go crazy just looking at it, feels unconvincing. The angle with the music and singing, which struck me as far more interesting and original, is largely forgotten once the bad books are uncovered, to the story’s detriment.
The ‘love’ interest may as well have come with lug nuts, it was so blatantly bolted onto the plot. The other leading protagonist, Sarah, seemed to switch between being weird and emotional to focused and strong more on the requirements of the story than through any natural character arc. I felt nothing in regards to the daughter Franny’s fate because for most of the book the character is tucked away in the background.
In the end, what started out as an intriguing take on the Cthulhu mythos ends up a disappointment that focuses on the wrong things. I also noticed a strangely high number of typos and grammatical errors in the book. Somewhere in the first half of this book is a great take on the Cthulhu setting but the second half squanders it for what is basically a protracted slugfest. Not exactly what I imagined in a ‘evil gods out to enslave humanity’ story.