‘Sabbath:’ Book Review

Sabbath is the newest novel from Nick Mamatas, author of I Am Providence, Bullettime, and The People’s Republic of Everything collection. At its heart, Sabbath is a neo-peplum story in the sword and sorcery vein, but a delight to genre fans as it takes on a cinematic quality, borrowing elements from fare such as Highlander, Terminator, Army of Darkness, Warlock, Beastmaster 2, and even 8 Heads in a Dufflebag.

The main plot of Sabbath focuses on Hexen Sabbath, an English warrior from the 11th Century who dies during the Battle of Assandun but is transported by the celestial being Abathar to Manhattan in 2016 in order to stop Armageddon from happening. His quest: to slay human incarnations of the seven deadly sins within seven days and collect their heads, lest the world will end. He is (reluctantly at first) aided in his adventure by Jennifer, owner of an art gallery who provides some of the street smarts and common sense to Sabbath as he runs amok wielding his sword through Manhattan while carrying his bag of dismembered heads.

The seven deadly sins in Sabbath all take unique forms: Sloth runs a cubicle farm of office drones; Lust runs a Chinatown massage parlor; Wrath is a fighter in a no-rules underground arena; Greed is a faux-chauffeur who takes in mass media; Gluttony runs a high-end Franco-Russian fusion restaurant; Envy is an extremely rich socialite; and Pride is a US presidential candidate. Each encounter provides great temptation for Sabbath, who oftentimes is unable to refuse. The outcome of each is violent and gory, giving Sabbath an old-school vibe: a B-grade Cannon film but written by an A+ author.

The genesis of Sabbath came from a graphic novel by Matthew Tamao; however, Mamatas has been able to turn the story into something uniquely his, combining sword and sorcery genre tropes with his polished literary style. This causes Sabbath to be a multilayered story: action/adventure/fantasy fun on the top layer, but commentary on religious matters (as Sabbath comes from a different time where religion was held in a different regard) and political matters in a post-Trump America (with Pride being a Trump proxy).

Sabbath is a fun and engaging novel, an old-school story updated and made fresh via Mamatas’ keen style and eye for detail. While Mamatas’ writing sometimes requires total commitment from his readers (especially the short stories found in The People’s Republic of Everything), Mamatas eases up a bit in Sabbath, making an accessible story, a delight for his current fanbase, and perhaps a great starting place to lure in new, adventurous readers.


Creative Team: Nick Mamatas (writer)
Publisher: Tor Books
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