Johannes Cabal the Necromancer
Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero of any kind. There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, stealing occult volumes, and being on middling terms with demons.
His purpose, however, is noble. His researches are all directed to raising the dead. Not as monstrosities but as people, just as they were when they lived: physically, mentally, and spiritually. For such a prize, some sacrifices are necessary. One such sacrifice was his own soul, but he now sees that was a mistake - it's not just that he needs it for his research to have validity, but now he realises he needs it to be himself.
Unfortunately, his soul now rests within the festering bureaucracy of Hell. Satan may be cruel and capricious but, most dangerously, he is bored. It is Cabal's unhappy lot to provide him with amusement.
In short, a wager: in return for his own soul, Cabal must gather one hundred others. Placed in control of a diabolical carnival - created to tempt to contentiousness, to blasphemy, argumentation and murder, but one that may also win coconuts - and armed only with his intelligence, a very large handgun, and a total absence of whimsy, Cabal has one year.
For anyone whose taste edges toward the intelligent and macabre, this book is a gift.
In Johannes Cabal, (Howard) has created a thoroughly unpleasant lead character who somehow the reader is rooting for - a real achievement.
This is the spot-on work of a talented writer. For all the sly humor, it would not do to ignore the skill in pacing and character that make Johannes Cabal the Necromancer work.
I could continue to rave about this book at great length, but I'll conclude here by saying that Johannes Cabal the Necromancer is perhaps the very best speculative comedy novel I've read over the past fifteen years.