It has been a long time since I have read a novel where the main character never has a name. It’s not a terribly common tool—at least that I’ve seen—because it is difficult to identify a character when they have no name, but I think that it can be a fascinating means of exploring personality. And, in the case of Scott Kimak’s I Call Him HIM, I think it works very well.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows several different characters, all revolving around one particularly impressive man who is almost single-handedly saving the world from the demons that overran it after the nuclear apocalypse. The narrator is one of our unnamed souls, and he rides along with Billy, a rather chatty individual with no end of commentary. Both of them follow the dark man, whom the narrator has dubbed merely HIM. They are journeying around as demon hunters, doing their best in the world, until they meet a young girl about to be sacrificed for still praying to God. HE saves the girl and together the group ventures off to go stop the demons from getting even stronger.
Overall, I think the plot worked very well. It is a fairly simple concept—demon hunter has to stop the demons with his band of useful friends at his side—but the fact that it is simple does not make it at all uninteresting. The interest here comes from the characters, how they interact, how they build upon one another. Their backstories are explored while twining with current events and each piece works very well together. The pacing is smooth and I never felt lost or bored.
2. Thoughts on the characters
I really do like the concept of leaving characters nameless. It adds an element of mystery that can either be heightened or reduced depending on how the character presents in the story. In this instance, the narrator has less mystery and the big bad demon hunter has more. I think this dichotomy works spectacularly well, especially when we get closer to the end of the novel and certain truths are revealed.
I will say that those particular plot twists were not entirely unexpected. There were enough hints throughout the first part of the novel to make it fairly obvious what was going on with the narrator, Billy and HIM. However, that did not diminish my enjoyment of the piece.
3. Favourite part
I think the relationship between HIM and the girl—who actually has a name—is very sweet. They’re almost like father and daughter, but perhaps more brother and sister in the way they are protective of each other and trying to help each other.
I will say that the prose could be smoother. The narration was fairly consistent, style-wise, despite switching between our first-person narrator and the various other characters in third-person. However, the fact that it was so consistent made the narrator’s voice blend into the background, which I think reduced some of the effect. Also, the timeline was a bit wonky, with the apocalypse supposedly happening some mythic time ago, but events in the characters minds flit back to “before”, which seems a bit off. This, and other details just made things feel a little choppy, despite the pacing of the plot.
The only part I really didn’t love was one of the character backstories involved seeing his brother raped by a Catholic priest. This felt like it was just thrown in for cringe value and to make some sort of statement about people’s perception of the church. It didn’t really fit and I never enjoy reading that sort of thing.
Overall, I would say that I Call Him HIM by Scott Kimak was an interesting exploration of a post-apocalyptic world, with interesting characters and a well paced plot. A good book.