1991’s Return Of The Breakneck Boys is the second (and most recent) instalment in Geary Gravel’s Fading Worlds series.
Former fix-it man Howard Bell went looking for a washroom and found a pathway to another world. It’s a dangerous world, but he has survived, even thriven. He has attracted followers, warriors of many species. Together, they form a band known as the Breakneck Boys.
The Breakneck Boys are not just warriors. They are rebels against their former masters, the mysterious Keyholders.
Howard is like a keyholder in that he holds, and can use, one of the keys that grant access to all the realms of the Fading Worlds. Why the artifact works for him is unclear — legend says that non-Keyholders who tried to use keys died — but the fact that it does means that Howard can convey his band from world to world in search of potential recruits.
Unaccustomed to resistance, it takes the Keyholders a while to notice the Breakneck Boys’ efforts. When the Keyholders do respond, it is violently. Howard and the majority of the Breakneck Boys survive. They had taken the precaution of removing the microscopic translation bugs provided by the Keyholders. Bugs that be triggered to kill.
Accompanied by Alaiya, his female ally, Howard ventures back to his own world. Time has run more quickly on Earth than it has in the Fading Worlds, but no one seems to have noticed Howard’s disappearance. He contacts old friends and ties up loose ends. Perhaps more importantly, he investigates the mysteries that are the keys and his unexpected ability to use them.
This Earthly interlude is also an opportunity for his enemies, who have a better chance of killing him when he is not surrounded by a small army.
This book doesn’t tell us all that much about the Keyholders, but we do begin to suspect that they are eldritch abominations of a Lovecraftian sort. Either that or they’ve domesticated some eldritch abominations and are using them as yet more playing pieces on their worlds-spanning playing board.
Howard spent the first book in this series reacting to changes and assaults thrust upon him. In this book he has plans of his own, plans to resist the mysterious Keyholders and their pawns. I found this a welcome change of pace from the ambling narrative of the first book.
Still, this is very much a middle book. Book one outlined the setting. This book sets up some plot arcs. Why is it that Howard can function as a Keyholder without being one? What will happen to Ryan, a character who is HIV positive? We won’t know unless Geary finishes his series. So far, there has been no third book.
Perhaps the reissue, in e, of these old books suggests that the author might at long last finish the trilogy. I was sufficiently intrigued by the two books I have read that I wouldn’t mind reading the third.
Return Of The Breakneck Boys is available here (Amazon). I could not find it at Chapters-Indigo.