Review: Dark Horse’s Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas

Dark Horse just released a novel, and it’s a stone cold crime thriller. Raging onto the page with a mashup of Communism, magick, and hardcore 80s punk, Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas is a fascinating novel in both tone and content. “Golden” Dawn Seliger finds the body of her mentor one night and becomes bent upon finding the person who killed him. She uses magick and her ties to the Communist underbelly in Long Island to hunt down the truth and discovers hideous secrets hiding in plain sight, along with what it truly means to be an individual and an outsider.

First off, the really cool thing about Love is the Law is that the system of magick is based upon a real schema that some people thought worked, namely the practices of Aleister Crowley. Now I don’t know much about the Ordo Templi Orientis or the real Book of the Law, but I can gather that Mamatas takes a true approach to those theorized magicks because his book mainly focuses on the individuals’ “will” and their simultaneous conviction in switching their perceptions.

Why is this cool? Because it’s tantalizingly different from saying “The elven maiden is now invisible because…elf magic.” Love is the Law gets into the nitty-gritty. It explores the mastering of the thought process that produces magic during the chilly fall nights of 1989 Long Island.

Disclaimer: there are absolutely NO elven maidens in this book. However, there are plenty of mysterious magical occurrences roiling around, don’t you worry.

There’s a long discussion playing out in the book about the struggle of the masses vs. the powerful individual. I was gleeful to find that Dawn herself is a powerful individual, but NOT in the conventional way of money or politics. She is powerful in her thoughts, and thus she stands out from a mass that wants to crush itself in order to attain the thing it’s fighting against.

That being said, the best part of Nick Mamatas’s novel is his approach to the female protagonist. Dawn is hardcore. Ruthless almost. But she’s a straight-shot, doesn’t take shit from anyone, doesn’t fall pray to either illusions or disillusionment and, as she reminds you numerous times in the  novel, she is a “fucking genius.”

Objectively, there are times where she seems almost too hard, but her life experiences dictate her “saltiness,” so to speak. Her father is a crackhead, her mother is dead, and her grandma barely remembers who she is anymore. Not to mention that the entire town treats her like dirt because of her punk aesthetic. Yes, Dawn has very intense feelings, but she doesn’t get tangled up in a love triangle that so often undermines the progress of the female protagonist.

Now I don’t mean to say that a woman falling in love is a weakness (whether her subject of affection be male or female), but once a female protagonist goes from ass-kicking, bad mambajamba to throwing everything away for some dude/lady, or being saved by some dude/lady, or even worse, becoming all about her boobs and said dude/lady, I get very irritated. Love and sex can happen aplenty, but if it undermines the point of why the woman is the protagonist in an action/thriller/mystery, then I rage-quit. Because, through some screwed-up metamorphosis, the plot then ceases to be about the established story and somehow becomes a commentary on women and how their sexual value must be high in order to be a protagonist. But that’s my opinion, friends. Take it with a grain of salt.

Anyway, Dawn creates no commentary on female sexual worth. She just takes care of business.

If there’s anything that makes Love is the Law a little lackluster, it’s the desire of the reader to see some justice. Yet, the point of Dawn’s philosophy is that there is no such thing as justice. So, coming to grips with that throughout the book and the climatic ending is very difficult to swallow if you want to define “bad guys” and see them get their just desserts.

All in all, Love is the Law is an intense piece of work. Punk, Communism, magick, and rock-solid “Golden” Dawn Seliger will take you on a ride to the deep, dark places of society and make you wonder about the true power of being an individual.

Score: B+

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