Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater by Brent Michael Kelley

The story stars our titular character, Chuggie, who is the walking incarnation of Drought. His ability to rapidly pull in moisture from his surroundings, which includes people, causes him to be shunned the world over. Immortal and homeless, he wanders the earth until he comes across the troubled city of Stagwater. Here, it seems fate has decided he has a purpose.

Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater
by Brent Michael Kelley
Omnium Gatherum
November 2011

We’re introduced to Chuggie as he stands just outside the city of Stagwater. From the very beginning you know something is a little strange here since Chuggie has horns and a length of chain with an anchor attached to one end and the other fused to his rib cage. Things actually gets stranger still as we’re introduced to a world of magic fueled by torture, demons, and inter-dimensional monsters.

Unfortunately, the story never really takes off from there. Chuggie is only ever interested in drinking, smoking, and telling stories so outlandish that we’re never quite sure if they’re supposed to be true or just pure fabrication. We’re also introduced to a host of secondary characters, but despite being given brief glimpses into their lives, none of them are ever really fleshed out and ultimately come across as flat cardboard cut-outs that float in and out of the background

The main villains of the story aren’t much better. Kale is the only other character besides Chuggie that is given much focus, and while the inner workings of his mind are initially interesting to behold, his whole “I want to kill everyone” thought process becomes a bit repetitive after a while and makes his role of “bad guy” feel a bit forced.

Instead the story focuses heavily on Chuggie and his lover Shola, a witch whose actions and emotions are so non-sequitur I was hard pressed to see what Chuggie even saw in her (other than that she was female and apparently interested in him).

As for Chuggie, he’s hardly a sympathetic character, but given what all he’s put through, it actually works for him. However, Chuggie’s biggest problem involves staying on track. He seems to be constantly distracted by anything and everything, and his musings go on for pages at a time without actually adding anything to the story or suddenly adding too much as we’re ripped from the action and treated to paragraphs of exposition.

In truth, the work’s biggest flaws come down to pacing and length. The framework is there, but halfway through the story, all the characters seem to be in a rush to collide with one another as if they know there’s only so much screen time left. Crucial plot details feel tacked on last minute while others are glossed over or simply thrust into the story with no explanation, deus-ex-machina style.

The gore and horror are well-written, and certain scenes and descriptions shine with obvious polish and care. But as any movie critic will tell you, good special effects can’t make up for bad acting. And no amount of setting can make up for shaky character development.

That said, I’m honestly interested in seeing what this author comes out with next. There’s obviously some raw talent in this work. It just needs a little more focus and direction to really shine.

Matthew Scott is just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.