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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

To Beat The Devil by M. K. Gibson (reviewed by Charles Phipps)

Official Author Website
Order The Book HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: In his own words: "Hi, I'm Mike Gibson (Gib or Gibby to my friends). I'm a father, husband, writer and a retired US Air Force MSgt with 20 years of service. Back in 1980, when I was 5, I saw the animated version of The Hobbit and was a geek from then on. All I have ever wanted to do was to write and tell stories. I live with my wife, son, 2 dogs and cat in Mt Airy, Maryland.

I love to read, play video games, exercise and watch movies. I'm a lover of all things geek and I'm a highly opinionated, socially/politically neutral person. I feel those who live and die by a brand, or party, are doomed to fail as human beings. I also mock those who refuse to let go of the Oxford comma."

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: 175 years have passed since God quit on mankind. Without his blessing, Hell itself, along with the ancient power of The Deep, were unleashed upon the world. Two world wars and oceans of blood later, a balance was reached. Demonkind took its place as the ruling aristocracy. Mankind, thanks to its ability to create, fell to the position of working proletariat. Alive, but not living. Lucky Us.

Welcome to New Golgotha, the East Coast supercity. In it you will find sins and cyborgs, magic and mystery, vices without virtue and hell without the hope of heaven. In the middle of it all is Salem, smuggler extraordinaire and recluse immortal, who has lived and fought through the last two centuries, but his biggest battle is just beginning.

To Beat The Devil is an incredible adventure full of cyborgs and demons, gods, magic, guns, puns and whiskey, humor and heart. Follow Salem as he embarks to discover the meaning of the very nature of what mankind is: our souls. And, who is trying to steal them.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A warning before I begin this review, I read this book when it was in manuscript form and the author was so impressed that he asked me to do the Foreword to it. So, this might be considered a conflict of interests but, in the end, I'm just sharing my opinions here as I shared them there.

What do I think of To Beat the Devil? It's a very funny book which attempts to replicate the kind of Buddy-Cop action movies of the 80s with a Dresden Files pop-culture savviness that mostly works quite well. It's also set in a post-apocalypse cyberpunk dystopia ruled by demons, which certainly lends it an originality from other urban fantasy currently available.

As I mentioned in the book's Foreword, as strange as the premise appears, it's somewhat like the Shadowrun setting. Except, in place of fairies, the world has been taken over by demons. Functionally, the two are pretty much the same as the demons of the Technomancer universe aren't as bad as they could be. They're more corrupt than monstrous, interested in living lives of decadent luxury more than torturing humans.

In that, they resemble Shadowrun's corrupt executives. I don't think Michael Gibson was taking from that setting, though, so much as they were both drawing from the corporate culture of the Eighties where Weyland-Yutani, Gordon Gecko, and OCP were kings. Certainly, I don't think we've gotten any better about the subject in the past couple of decades.

Salem is an enjoyable protagonist who resembles Chris Pratt's Guardians of the Galaxy character to no small degree. He's an irreverent immature criminal who is just trying to make his way through a complicated and dangerous world. Certainly, he's a poor choice for the world's savior but the Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque Grimm is forced to make due since Salem is about the only option left for humanity.

One element I respect about the book is that it makes it clear the goal is not to overthrow demonkind. Humanity and demonkind have become so intertwined that it's not possible for humanity to go back to the way it was before. Instead, the crapsack nature of the world is something which must simply be endured. Salem can make life enjoyable for a small number of humans or improve things slightly for all people but he can't make life good for everyone. Also, he has to work with the system rather than against it.

The book is full of action, laughs, and some surprisingly poignant moments. I especially liked the fact Salem is a lot deeper character than he initially appears. The circumstances of the world are so harsh and the people so beaten down that he's taken to being an immature rogue just to cope with the trauma.

I would have appreciated seeing more of Salem as a self-interested criminal before he undertook his road to becoming a hero but I think the twists and turns of the book are quite good anyway. I also like the surprising addition of mythologies other than Judeo-Christian and how all of these interact. The world-building is very in-depth and you can tell Michael Gibson has put a lot of thought into the subject.

In short, I highly recommend the book.


Mr. The Gibson said...

Thanks for allowing my work to be recognized on this site! I only hope people enjoy it. Thanks so much!

~MK Gibson


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