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Jago is a 1991 horror novel by Kim Newman.

The plot concerns a small town in rural England that falls under the domination of Anthony Jago, a cult leader with Reality Warper powers, on the same weekend that the town's population has been multiplied by tourists visiting for a music festival. As reality breaks down, the dark things inside people's minds begin to physically manifest. The characters struggle to survive and to defeat Jago before he extends his influence to the world beyond.

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And no, this Jago has absolutely nothing to do with the one from Killer Instinct.


This novel contains examples of:

  • All Girls Like Ponies: One of the characters mentally regresses to childhood as a result of her experiences; in the epilogue, she has the personality of an eight-year-old and is going through a major pony phase. (Although it's noted, in defiance of the trope name, that she actually never had a pony phase the first time she was eight years old.)
  • Apocalypse Cult: Jago's cult is based on a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation, adjusted to give Jago a starring role as the messiah. And Jago potentially has the power to make the world end according to his beliefs.
  • Astral Projection: During the climactic confrontation with Jago, Susan attempts to go head-to-head with him psychically and his counterattack temporarily pushes her right out of her body.
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  • An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost: In one of the historical interludes, a group of psychic investigators in the 1920s attempt to hold a seance in the Manor House. Instead of getting a ghost, they get Susan's temporarily and temporally displaced astral self.
  • Bathroom Break-Out: Mike Toad attempts one when his personal demons catch up to him in a pub. The pub itself is also part of the manifestation, so the bathroom window resists his efforts, and he dies a humiliating death on the unclean bathroom floor.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Subverted. In one scene, Susan recalls that IΨT got her to try using her psychometry to help solve the Yorkshire Ripper murders. She was able to pick the useful items of evidence out of a group of unrelated objects, but her impressions of the killer were considered too vague to be useful to the police investigation (though they turned out to be accurate when the killer was eventually caught).
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  • Black Helicopter: Played with, with white helicopters seen hovering at various times. It turns out that they're part of a rock band's publicity stunt, and nothing to do with any government or conspiracy surveillance nor with the supernatural goings-on.
  • Cain and Abel: The idiotic and sociopathic Delinquent Terry Gilpin contrasts to his intelligent and rather more decent younger brother Teddy.
  • Celebrity Resemblance:
  • Character Overlap:
    • The brutal police constable Erskine was originally a minor character in Newman's previous novel, Bad Dreams.
    • This novel includes Newman's first published uses of several characters and concepts that went on to feature in his later Diogenes Club series, including the characters Edwin Winthrop, Catriona Kaye, Stacy Cotterill, and Alastair Garnett, and the organisation IΨT. The manor house in Alder is also the setting of a chapter in the novella Seven Stars and another in "Cold Snap". (The latter story features guest appearances by three characters from Jago, not counting Catriona, and implies that the Diogenes Club series is an alternate timeline in which the events of Jago go differently because of the Diogenes Club's involvement.)
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The specific manifestations around town are shaped by the beliefs and obsessions of the people involved. Jeremy is able to defeat the Evil Dwarf by ceasing to believe in it (it's a lot less plausible when it appears in clearly visible physical form than it was as a vague possibility lurking in the dark). The manifestations that successfully do in the people who feared them tend to fade away afterward unless they've been witnessed by somebody else and a new belief created. Badmouth Ben manages to stick around for quite a while after taking his revenge on Wendy because Allison believes in him and wants him to keep existing. The manifestation of Danny Keough's terrors tries to get someone else to believe in her, but nobody else can because Danny's fears were so personal and idiosyncratic that nobody else can understand what she is, let alone believe that she exists.
  • Climbing Climax: Lampshaded. Young Jeremy instinctively heads for the highest floor of a building to escape a monster, realises he has no way out except back down past the monster, and then remembers that his father always derides characters in movies for making exactly this mistake.
  • Corporal Punishment: Maurice Maskell's father routinely punished him with ten strokes of a leather riding whip.
  • Corrupt Politician: Sir Kenneth Smart, the minister responsible for IΨT, is interested in psi powers only for "defence applications", ie killing more people more easily. At the end of the novel, after the events in Alder have been blamed on a new designer drug supposedly being spread about at the music festival, he burnishes his public reputation by declaring that such a tragedy should never be allowed again and pushing for stricter regulation of music festivals and stronger penalties for drug dealers, even though he knows perfectly well what really happened.
  • Dirty Cop: The three police officers attending the festival turn into murderous, fascist thugs under Jago's influence. (One of them, a returning character from Newman's previous novel, was already.)
  • Expy Coexistence: Buried in a list of other music festival venues previously attended by one of the characters is the name of Pilton, the Somerset village that hosts the Glastonbury Music Festival.
  • Fan Disservice: The novel has quite a few sex scenes, but almost all of them are non-consensual, full of Body Horror, or both.
  • The Fundamentalist: Jago's grandmother was a fanatical Christian fundamentalist.
  • Intangible Time Travel: While Susan is separated from her body, she also becomes unanchored from the present, and finds herself participating (as the spectral presence) in a seance held in the manor house decades earlier.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Several of the set pieces are built around this, including pretty much every one involving the murdered biker Badmouth Ben. Sex and violence are closely linked for Jago himself, going back to his upbringing by a strict grandmother who applied corporal punishment if she suspected him of sinful thoughts.
  • Just Think of the Potential: IΨT has known about Jago for years, but have stuck to watching without intervening because the people at the top hope to derive useful knowledge about his powers. Near the end, when Jago is using his full power to bring on the end of the world, Lytton suspects that even now if they could see what Jago was doing their reaction would be "Just think of the military applications!"
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Erskine, who was implied to get away with murder in Newman's previous novel Bad Dreams, gets transformed into a mindlessly brutal personification of Nazism and is then casually shot dead.
  • Literal Metaphor: In one of the less immediately perilous manifestations of the reality warping, a little girl meets and has a friendly conversation with Jesus. He's riding a bicycle, the way she always pictures him in her head, because her grandfather's favourite expression of annoyance was "Christ on a bike".
  • Living Memory: Susan says that all the ghosts she's ever encountered were just echoes of the real person, surviving in the memory of some still-living person or somehow imprinted on the environment. Jago's reality warping also results in the manifestation of several remembered people in solid seemingly-living form, including the biker Badmouth Ben, who was terrifying enough before he came back from the dead.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The novel has an enormous cast of characters, at least a dozen of whom get at least one scene as the viewpoint character.
  • Mirror Scare: Wendy sees the burning figure of Badmouth Ben reflected in the eyes of the person she's talking to, but when she looks behind her there's nobody there.
  • Mythology Gag: One of the bikers who shows up to the music festival has "Route 666" embroidered on his jacket. As well as a play on the real-life Route 66, "Route 666" was the title of short story Kim Newman had written, which was later expanded into a novel.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Allison, the creepy teenager who's even more feared than the town bullies like Terry.
    Another girl might have screamed at the face of Badmouth Ben, but Allison loved him at first sight.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Alder, the town in Somerset where the novel is set, is a more sinister version of Aller, the town in Somerset where the author grew up, except for the music festival, which is based on the annual Glastonbury Festival held in the Somerset town of Pilton.
  • Phony Psychic: Played with. Susan had a brief career as a Uri-Geller-style psychic before being debunked. The thing is, her psychic abilities are genuine (though not powerful enough to be particularly useful); she let herself be "debunked" so she could return to having something resembling a normal life.
  • Police Brutality: Teddy comes in for a brutal interrogation after he's accused of murdering Danny Keough, with whatever tendencies the police might already have had being exaggerated by Jago's influence.
  • The Problem with Pen Island: The government department investigating psi phenomena is called IΨT, pronounced like "Eyesight", but on typewriters or word processors where the psi symbol is unavailable it's rendered as IPSIT, which results in a scene where a character pronounces it "Ip-Sit".
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Susan has a variety of abilities, none very strong: just enough pyrokinesis to light a gas stove, just enough telekinesis to help get things off high shelves, a bit of telepathy, and a touch of psychometry.
    • Jago has all the same powers at much, much higher power levels.
  • Psychic Static: Intense pain blocks Jago's mind control.
  • Reality Warper: Jago develops this ability, which does nothing to dissuade him from his belief in his own messianic destiny.
  • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Jago's abilities have nasty side-effects for those around him, as all their fears and dark desires start manifesting. In the end, he loses control of it and it gets him too.
  • Rentazilla: Godzilla puts in an appearance at one point. After a moment, the characters realise it's not even one of the manifestations, but an inflatable animatronic airlifted in as part of a publicity stunt by one of the bands booked for the music festival. It lasts less than a chapter before springing a leak and deflating, and is not mentioned again.
  • Sacrificial Lion: James Lytton has the training and experience most suited, out of any of the characters, to dealing with life-threatening situations. He's competent, likeable, a bit sweet on Susan, and in a more conventional story he would probably save the day by taking down Jago and then he and Susan would walk off into the sunset together. Instead, his attempt to defeat Jago fails completely, showing how badly they've underestimated him, and Lytton is killed, leaving Paul Forrestier to figure out how finish what Lytton started.
  • The Slow Path: At the end of the novel, Susan meets a very old woman. It's Catriona Kaye, who as a young woman was at the seance Susan time-travelled back to; over the decades, she's figured out enough of what happened then to be able to track Susan down and ask her what it was all about.
  • Spooky Séance: One of the ominous events in the town's past is a seance that attracted a genuine spirit — not a ghost, however, but an Astral Projection with an Ominous Message from the Future.
  • Stable Time Loop: The town has a history of spooky occurrences going back at least a century, including angelic visions, ominous seances, people appearing out of thin air, etc. Over the course of the novel, it becomes apparent that each such occurrence is some kind of echo back through time of the events of Jago's reign of terror. It also becomes apparent that the history of the Jago family over the last century, which resulted in Jago being the warped individual he is, would have been completely different without those occurrences — so Jago's existence is a consequence of the weird events which are a consequence of Jago's existence.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Around the time things really start kicking off, a character in the local pub declares that there's change in the air and a storm is coming. (This gets a cheerful response, because it's a farming community in the middle of drought and a bit of rain would not be unwelcome.)
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The boy Jeremy is terrified of a creature called the Evil Dwarf, which lurks in his bedroom when the light is switched out and wants to suck his brains out of his skull. When it manifests, he actually doesn't have too much trouble defeating it, because it's actually a bit ridiculous when it appears in clearly visible physical form instead of as a vague possibility lurking in the dark — and also because by then he's had several experiences that were far more terrifying.
  • Time Travelers are Spies: In one of the manifestations of Jago's reality warping, a character is randomly transported back in time fifty years, landing in the middle of World War II. The suspicious locals who find her decide she's a German spy who's just parachuted in, taking her modern clothes for some kind of Spy Catsuit... and the fact that she's wearing a swastika necklace in what was, in the 1990s, a relatively harmless act of teenage rebellion, really doesn't help her case.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Paul Forrestier damages a tooth early in the novel by biting down on an unexpected bit of grit in his meal. After he realises that pain blocks Jago's mental domination, he deliberately damages his own tooth further, putting himself in agony, so that he has a chance of surviving the climactic confrontation.
  • Trapped in the Past: In one of the manifestations of Jago's reality warping, a character is randomly transported back in time fifty years, with no way of returning. Not that she gets the chance to look for one, since she's almost immediately killed by a paranoid local who thinks she's a Nazi spy.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: The regular chapter numbers go up in the usual way, but the "Interlude" scenes that occur between each section start with "Interlude Seven" and count down ominously toward Interlude Zero, which coincides with Jago's death. The decreasing number also reflects the fact that the Interlude scenes are in reverse chronological order: Interlude Seven takes place a few years before the start of the main plot, Interlude Six a few years before Interlude Seven, and so on.
  • Vomiting Cop: One of the cops who finds the mortal remains of Danny Keough has to go outside and throw up.
  • You Already Changed the Past: At one point, Susan is temporarily transported to the past via astral time travel, and attempts a hurried warning about Jago before being transported away again. Her audience grasps that she's trying to warn them about someone named Jago, but can't make out what exactly she's warning them against, so it doesn't prevent anything — and the warning is overheard by Jago's ancestor in that time period, who immediately packs up the family and flees to London for fear of reprisals, setting the family on the path that led to Jago being the person he is.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: It's ultimately shown that much — although not all — of Jago's reality warping is all in the mind; his psychic power causes people to perceive reality as different, but the physical world is unchanged. At some points, individuals manage to temporarily see through the illusion to the more mundane reality beneath. However, when everybody present agrees that a thing is happening, and it's convincing enough that people die because they believe they've been killed, the distinction is largely moot, and Jago poses a genuine threat.

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