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Literature / The Atomic Blood-Stained Bus

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The Atomic Blood-Stained Bus is the debut novel of Michael J Ritchie, published in 2014.

Garfield Sutton is a 700-year-old druid who drives a bus around mainland Britain and eats anyone who gets on board. He is accompanied by the former God of Spring, Algernon, who has been kicked out of the heavens and, with immortality to contend with, now travels with Garfield cleaning up after him.

Gwen Mckenna is a twice-divorced tabloid journalist from London who has two main obsessions: magic and missing persons. When she goes on the trail of another vanished citizen, she begins to realise that a bizarre number of missing people were last seen "getting on a bus". And her interest is only piqued further when a witch tells her to stop her search.

And if that wasn't enough, there's also a headless horseman, an eons-old bartender and some lost souls to deal with.

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Tropes:

  • Afterlife Antechamber: the Halfway House, with implications that it is one of many
  • Back from the Dead: Beatrice
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: implied by Don about the dullahan
  • Combo Platter Powers: Algernon's full title is God of Spring, Rebirth, Renewal and Ten-Pin Bowling. Another character is mentioned in passing as being God of Gates, Fences, Trespassing and Public Wi-Fi, which seems a sensible addition, but even the God of Death isn't immune, being officially the God of Death, Taxes and Ceiling Fans.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: how many people are tricked into getting on the bus
  • Deceased Parents are the Best: no character is mentioned to have parents and the reason for some of these is death
  • Deus ex Machina: played with, as the end game begins when the God of Coincidence arrives and all the disparate factions of the novel are united
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  • Disposing of a Body: Garfield eats them, Algernon removes the soul
  • Divine Intervention: inverted; the gods don’t really care much for humanity and don’t want to be discovered or worshipped
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: Maryanne vanishes in fire, Felicity vanishes in electricity … the third witch is an Ice Queen
  • Greasy Spoon
  • Historical-Domain Character: Nicolas Flamel and Lord Lucan. Although neither of them appear in person, the former plays a pivotal role, and the latter's fate is explained in a throwaway joke.
  • Ice Queen: Freya
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: The barman of The Halfway House spends most of his time cleaning glasses
  • Odd Job Gods: all the gods seen have huge remits in their portfolio (Spring, Plague, Sleep) but due to human modernisation, they have had to adopt other things alongside (Ten Pin Bowling, Post Offices, Reality TV Contestants)
  • The Old Gods: implication of a difference between “gods” and “Gods”
  • Physical God: the gods actually exist in human form
  • Psychopomp: the dullahan is named as such and a couple of others get namedropped
  • R-Rated Opening: the first chapter features a character attempting to commit rape, and a gory cannibal scene; the rest of the book is actually somewhat lighter with gore occurring intermittently rather than as a constant
  • Shout-Out
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: discussed briefly at the novel’s opening, regarding the titular bus
  • The Three Certainties in Life: Death, taxes and ceiling fans
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