Book The Fifty-Third

The Levels by Sean Cregan

Okay, so a few years back, Warren Ellis started writing a series called Fell chronicling the awful life of a police detective in the decaying urban sprawl known as Snowtown.

The Levels is, without a doubt, the finest Fell fanfiction I have ever read.

The titular Levels, Cregan’s decaying urban sprawl, is Snowtown in everything except name: It has a near-shamanic “L” tag done by denizens like the “S” tag of Ellis’ world; each has the bizarre lurker (Richard Fell is harassed by a nun in a Nixon mask, Nathan Turner is creeped out by a clown in an SS uniform); both locales have feral packs of domesticated breeds of dogs; the Beast – the serial killer haunting the Levels – was infected with a pathogen when he and some fellow chancers tried to steal from a government facility, which is, word-for-word, the story from an early issue of Fell.

Which is a pity, given that I really liked this book. Sure, the dialogue is wholly unrealistic, but it’s snappy and funny and fun to read. Sure the characters are all stereotypes and have ridiculously implausible reasons for interacting with each other, but really they’re just ciphers to show us the horror of the Levels, and the story rollicks along at a fine pace.

I enjoyed this book immensely, but there were too many times when the flow of reading was interrupted by the mental judder-bars of noticing the (let’s be kind and call them) homages to Fell – mostly stylistic, but often more overt (such as when the bad guys were revealed to be holing up in the abandoned Fellman Elementary School). I’m going to keep an eye out for Cregan’s next work: when he actually writes a story of his own, I’m pretty sure it will be worth reading.

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