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Friday, October 12, 2007

"God's Demon" by Wayne Barlowe

Order “God’s DemonHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

From acclaimed artist Wayne Barlowe, whose distinctive stamp can be found in literature (Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, Expedition), film (Harry Potter 3 + 4, Blade II, Hellboy), television (Discovery Channel’s Alien Planet, Babylon 5) and videogames (Dead Rush, Prototype) as well as appearing in numerous museums, Time, Life and Newsweek (for a much more comprehensive list of accomplishments, read Mr. Barlowe’s biography HERE), comes the creator’s latest visionary piece “God’s Demon”, an extraordinary fantasy novel set in the bowels of Hell.

Influenced by John Milton’sParadise Lost” (Barlowe recently did pre-production artwork for the film adaptation) and his own artbooks Barlowe’s Inferno (1998) & Brushfire: Illuminations from the Inferno (2001) – none of which I’ve read unfortunately – “God’s Demon” introduces an underworld where Lucifer is missing, the land is divided into territories each governed by a Demons Major or Minor (former seraphim), and Beelzebub is the ruling Prince Regent. While most of the Fallen have accepted their lot as demons presiding over the damned, one Demon Major named Sargatanas has not forgotten where he came from, and it’s reflected in the architecture of his city Adamantinarx-Upon-the-Acheron and the way he rules. It’s because of the inadvertent machinations of Lilith though, Beelzebub’s unwilling consort, that Sargatanas becomes enlightened and decides to seek that which no other Fallen had ever thought to pursue – a return to Heaven. Aided by his Prime Minister Valefar, the Captain of the Flying Guard Eligor, and a soul who was once a great general in Life, Sargatanas sets in motion a war against Beelzebub that, succeed or fail, will leave Hell forever changed…

If you’re an epic fantasy lover like I am, then I definitely think Wayne Barlowe’sGod’s Demon” will appeal to you. Strip away the fact that the book takes place in Hell, the characters are either fallen angels or damned souls, and the plot is more or less about finding redemption, and what you have are some fairly recognizable fantasy components. There’s the all-too familiar hierarchy between lords & peasantry; war, always a favorite plot device, is prominently featured; there’s also a sprinkle of court politics & intrigue; a magic system; worldbuilding is a major aspect in the book; characters are decisively good or evil; and no fantasy is complete without such common themes as love, vengeance, hope and so forth. Of course, what makes “God’s Demon” unique in the first place are its biblical trappings, however skewed they may be. For instance, souls aren’t just another variation of slaves or peasants; they are literally used as building materials in the construction of cities, weapons or steeds. War itself is given a whole new dynamic since demons follow their own set of rules and employ much more creative strategies than men. Magic comes in the form of sigils, glyphs & emblems, and whenever a demon dies, they leave behind a disk that can be absorbed by another demon, thus gaining the defeated’s knowledge and power. And finally, Sargatanas’ journey for forgiveness, while simplistic, is a powerful one and is quite a welcome relief from the endless variations of prophecies, ancient evils and chosen ones that is found in a lot of fantasy literature. In essence, “God’s Demon” is both like and unlike any fantasy that you’ve read.

Writing-wise, Mr. Barlowe’s novel is much like his artwork – creative and full of detail. In fact, the very strength of the book lies with the vividness & imagination in which Hell and its occupants are brought to life, especially the architectural splendor of its cities Adamantinarx and the capital Dis, and the unforgettable menace of such standout villains as General Moloch, Baron Faraii, the sorcerer Lord Agaliarept, and scene-stealer Beezlebub whose body is composed of thousands of flies. Another of Mr. Barlowe’s strengths is his ability to write great action scenes. Whether it’s a one-on-one confrontation or an epic-scale battle, the action in “God’s Demon” is just breathtaking. I was particularly floored by the book’s climactic moments which included the final memorable showdown between Sargatanas & Beezlebub the Fly. Not quite on the same level however, was the characterization (lacked a bit of depth) and the story (pretty straightforward with little unpredictability), but really it’s hard to complain. If I’m not mistaken, “God’s Demon” is Mr. Barlowe’s first actual novel, so taken in that context, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the author’s overall performance, which comes across as amazingly confident and inspired.

In a novel that wonderfully marries the familiar with the imaginative, the biggest and most pleasant surprise about “God’s Demon” is just how accessible it is. Because of the subject material I thought the book was going to be a very dark and graphic read, but in reality, the novel is actually quite emotive and uplifting. In closing, it looks like Tor has another winner on their hands. Not only is “God’s Demon” a tremendously compelling epic that will satisfy fantasy readers many times over, it is also a startling artistic accomplishment. From beginning to end, I was completely immersed in the dazzling vision of Hell conjured by Wayne Barlowe, and I strongly hope that he returns to the underworld in the very near future. For while “God’s Demon” effectively stands on its own, the Rebellion has only just begun and there is much of Hell left to be discovered…


Chris, The Book Swede said...

This sounds excellent! After The Book of Joby I'm really keen on another kind of book which has Hellish elements =D


Reanimated said...

Yo Robert!

God's Demon sounds very cool.

I finished CHASING THE DEAD last night. It reminded me of old school horror. Like an early Dean Koontz book. Can't wait for EAT THE DARK.


Robert said...

Chris, "God's Demon" is definitely darker than "The Book of Joby"--much more serious with less humor/charm, but like I said, very moving stuff. In fact, the writing reminded me a bit of David Anthony Durham in "Acacia"... So, I hope you get to check it out :)

Reanimated, very glad to hear that you liked Joe Schreiber's "Chasing the Dead"! I think you might like "Eat the Dark" even more :D

Calibandar said...

Glad to hear it is as aexcellent as it looks, I'm buying this one along with Companion to Wolves and Sword from Red Ice when it comes out on Tuesday.

When you interview Barlowe you should really ask him if he is writing a second book and when he thinks that might come out.



Robert said...

Yeah I think you'll enjoy it Calibander :) As far as the interview, that's definitely one of the questions. If you have any more, just let me know!

I'm looking forward to A Companion of Wolves, which I'll start later today or tomorrow. Unfortunately, I never received a review copy of "A Sword From Red Ice" so I'm going to have pick that one up myself when it comes out :D

Calibandar said...

I'd be really interested in seeing what you think of Sword from Red Ice, have you read the first two books?

Robert said...

I've read all of Ms. Jones' books from The Book of Words trilogy, to The Barbed Coil and her Sword of Shadows series, which I think is easily her best work. It's been a while though since I've read "A Cavern of Black Ice" and "A Fortress of Grey Ice" so I'm hoping to re-read the latter before I start on the new one. So, it could be a little while before you see a review...

Aeron said...

I've been following the works of Barlowe since my teens, I remember admiring the sketches for the inferno in the back of one of his smaller fantasy or sci fi guide books. The paintings from the Inferno that appeared in a retrospective book on his art which came out in the late nineties made me really excited for this project. I'd originally imagined it would be some giant art book with depictions of Hell similar to his Expedition book. I was surprised when it turned out there would be an actual story going on in this wild interpretation of Hell. I've poured over Barlowe's Inferno and Brushfire books more times than I can remember so it goes without saying that I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I'm curious though, are there any illustrations in this book or is it straight text? I can only assume that someday all of his Inferno paintings and writings will be collected into one epic and amazing book!

And I'm really hoping to see this story continued in future volumes as well as stacks of more paintings from this Inferno.

It will be interesting to see how Clive Barker's "Scarlet Gospels" compares with this so far as each author's interpretations of the worlds of Hell.

Anonymous said...

One of the best books I've read this new year. Excellent characters, description of Hell was excellent and overall a really good read. Highly recommend to any fantasy readers out here :)

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