Sunday, July 15, 2012

review: The Young Demon Keeper by Bob Simms

This is a witty romp through the possibilities of demonology. Fictional, I hasten to add, though I'm sure Bob did his homework before setting off. I know this because I read the book in draft form on a writers' forum 18 months or more ago, and I thought then that it was funny and had a really original story. Now that it's available on Kindle I decided to download it to see how it had progressed. Polished and assured, it's now very good indeed.

The characters are richly different from each other and yet all have aspects that I recognise and enjoy. Paul, the main character, has attempted to summon a personal demon to assist him in his ineffectual life. Characteristically, he's managed only to botch the job. His invocation spell, which we later find is a cut and shut effort, has lumbered him with Scarth - a hybrid "chimera" who is not only useless and stupid but inclined to eat anything, from gravel to ice-cream to people. Hell being un-educated about "fitness for purpose" in purchases, Paul finds that both the chimera and his superiors resist all efforts to return Scarth to The Pit.

Throughout, the main characters felt like people I might know or have known - Ess the bright Earth Mother Wiccan, Paul the nerdy IT support technician, Dumpster the pub hard-man (dominated by his tiny wife), the large and ebullient Professor "Oz" who pretends to be a sexual predator and is actually an expert on several subjects. Being myself an agnostic, I found Paul's encounter with the "provisional wing" of the Christian church amusing, but I daresay a churchgoer might be offended, so don't buy this book for your mother if she pours the tea for Bring and Buy Sales at St Jehosophat's.

The actual demons have interesting - and surely satirical - qualities, such as utter seriousness, lack of creative imagination, and a selfish dedication to career oneupmanship. I wonder who they reminded me of? I couldn't POSSIBLY comment. Naturally, in a work of fiction, these qualities are the ones that let them down and allow Paul to free himself from his impulse buy of the spiritual companion from Hell. By the end of the book, I'd got involved enough to worry, as Ess does, about what will become of Scarth - and even the howling, Hell-filled misery of his scream - when his tie to Paul is finally cut.

The writing is witty, without being overdone, and the tone is light despite the dark possibilities of the story. You're never in doubt that Paul and Ess and Oz WILL succeed against the forces of the Pit, but wanting to know exactly how is what makes this a page turner. (Or screen flicker. Whatever.)

The Young Demon Keeper is available from Amazon

PS I wouldn't have bought this for the cover, but the inside is worth twice its price of £1.92.

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