Watt O’Hugh Underground: a review

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This is the second book in the memoirs of: time traveling, rough around the edges, ghost leading, cowboy, Watt O’Hugh. The first thing you will notice is the change of covers from the slightly drab original cover to these new action packed colourful explosions clearly reminiscent of the kind of dime store, pulp tales stories that Mr O’Hugh is said to have starred in. Now I wouldn’t say the fit the tone of the books better than the original, as the actual stories fall somewhere in-between the two realities but they add a nice touch of humour and life and will definitely sell the series far better.

Now those of you that have read my review of the first book know that while there was much I liked about the book it felt a little too chaotic and jumbled for me to be too enthused about the follow up which is why you’re getting it now two months after the launch. Now this is a hectic world we live in and you probably want a nice little paragraph, or if possible a line, off me to let you know if this is better, worse or just more of the same. Perhaps the best way to look at it would be that the original book was the pilot episode, feeling slightly longer, it tried to introduce us to everything the series had to offer, from characters and concepts to plot and arcs with a large grin on its face in an effort to convince to come back again next week. This book however feels like the first episode proper as it lingers on the set-ups, fleshes out its cast and gives many fleeting figures a sense of depth and reason. It’s still the same story but it gives you a sense of optimism on how it’s gonna run.

At the same time there seems to be more of a concession to story telling techniques in this book. In the first book Watt O’Hugh was introduced to us as a rough around the edges anti hero who because of this had to be literally kicked into action and at one of the earliest oputunites wandered off. This made for a great character who while still a good hearted guy we could all like, was also far from the picturesque image of heroes in our mind. The only problem with this was that it made the story more than a little disjointed. In this one we find Watt living in a desolate cabin far from everyone and everywhere, getting by on bourbon and beans when. Fairly soon a young woman by the name of Hester Smith literally breaks down his door and asks for the help of him and his ghosts in hijacking a train of Sidonia (a cult like group who we encountered in the first tale). Needless to say this does not go well but it runs in a straight easy to follow manner as we see Watt as his new team plot their mission and go through the steps leading up to the night. None of this comes across as boring and in fact represents this books great strength over its predecessor and that is time. While the action goes along at a great pace and there is truly never a dull.

In the first novel Watt discovered the ability to time travel, a trait which seemed mostly to set up and delve into his backstory with Lucy Billings. Here the time travel doesn’t appear to be for anything as obvious with Watt taking an early tumble through time to avoid the hired guns on Hester’s tail. Yet despite this more superfluous use it doesn’t feel forced and not only introduces the concept for new readers but gives a sense of confidence in Drachman who feels confident to play around with the ability right from the offset of the story.

In fact this confidence runs throughout the book as ideas and characters from the first book are brought back and played around with giving us a Lucy Billings who could have easily become a Teresa Draco or Vesper Lynd but instead still lingers on as you would expect of a mans first love. Likewise the enigmatic Billy Golden (who I have been assured that while some believe to be Jesus is not) returns this time not as a prophetic leader of the resistance but instead as a man who has fallen in love. In fact this may be the best use of time travel yet as we see Billy age and de-age before our eyes as he reworks conversations always in a constant effort to get them right. It’s the kind of time travel that might not hold up too well for those who love to pick apart such stories for casuality and paradox’s but holds up brilliantly for those who don’t care about such things and can enjoy it for the emotion it carries.

If you haven’t read the first book I almost want to recommend starting with this one and going back to flesh out the story if you’re interested. Drachman does a great job of reminding long time readers and bringing new ones up to speed without stopping for a bout of drab exposition.

For anyone who enjoyed the first book I would recommend this book in case you haven’t already got it. For anyone who hated the first book I would recommend staying away as you are likely to only find more of the same but for those like me who were fairly ‘meh’ about the first foray into the life of Watt O’Hugh I’d recommend giving this a go. This book reads with much more force and confidence giving me high expectations for the future of what I can easily say is my favourite time traveling, ghost summoning, literary cowboy.

In my first review I mentioned Brisco County Jr and the connection is easy to make but now that I’ve thought about it and certainly now that I’ve read the second book I think it may be slightly closer in line with Big Trouble in Little China. While that may mean that there will be some who don’t get the book those that do will love every minute.

Watt O’Hugh Underground is available from Amazon currently for £1.82 on Kindle

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