on June 17, 2011
Look up the word "irreverent" in the OED, and you will find an image of this book. Think Good Omens turned up to 11, with an American twist. Not one sacred cow escapes the meat grinder, but the end result is some pretty tasty hamburger.
It's a fun, quick read - clever language and fast-moving story - and beneath the surface lies an impressively well-constructed world, with a plot and characters to match. SLY wouldn't work so well if its scaffolding were any less solid. This is extremely intelligent satire, the kind that skewers you while you're breathless from laughing.
It is not for everyone, in the same way that Armageddon Ultra Death Super Hot Hot Sauce isn't for everyone. But if satire is in fact your thing, SLY will be the funniest 99-cent book you read this year.
on November 27, 2011
I loved the premise of this book. Being able to laugh at Heaven and hell in equal measures is refreshing. And some of the issues satan faces make you laugh, especially when you kinda symapthise with him. Death being sacked - who could have guessed it would lead to such industrial action. And for those of us outside of the US, we definitely saw the funny side of satan being sued for millions for being - well, just being satan really. I am surprised nobody has tried that for real. US does have a reputation for having some areas of society sueing anything and anything.
And I loved the idea of a wrestlemania style build up to the 100 year contest between representatives of each realm. Nero as your right hand man? Classic....lol
So why only 3 stars?? Well, up to the time of the court case it was well paced, lots of irony and humour. It fairly buzzed along. Then it got a little jaded. The characters were a little over the top but the humour slipped off the rails a little bit. Hard to explain this really, but a previous reviewer I think felt the same. It did pick up again right at the end (the nun getting drunk for the first time again had some links with real life) but a huge part of the second section of the book just felt a little hit and miss. I wasn't feeling any bonding with the characters.
Having said that, it is still a good book, and better than many I have read. I guess I am just a bit tight with my star ratings :) To get a 4 star it has to zing from start to finish IMO. To get 5 stars it has to be one I would re-read in the future. (Not too many get 5 stars but I am happy giving out 4 stars).
I take my hat off to the author with this book. A great idea for a story in the style of Douglas Adams meets Terry Pratchett. When reading the first half I thought "this would make a terrific film!" I think it has promise if anyone was brave enough to give it a go :) If you enjoyed Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, this will be up your street.
on June 10, 2011
Overall: 4 1/2 Stars
Plot/Storyline: 4 1/2 Stars
This was an easy book to enjoy, with a few caveats. On the positive side, the story was funny, clever, and irreverent. I'd compare it a little to Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens. Perhaps Christopher Moore in terms of humor as social commentary and a vehicle to skewer sacred cows. Still, I can't say the book quite matches either of these comparisons, as Mr. Hendricks seems to take it a step or two beyond.
The author seems to be willing to offend, oh, everyone if the result is a brilliant line. Nuns, hipsters, conspiracy theorists, media personalities, celebrities, charitable institutions, are just some of the targets. I don't know what Quizno's Sandwich Shop did to him or his people, but it can't have been good.
I will mention the two issues I had with the book. One was that, in the midst of this legitimately funny and clever book, on multiple occasions, really bad things happen to kids. No one is going to confuse me with the teacher from Romper Room, but even I have to say this was a buzz kill. Well, at least one of the kids, to paraphrase Monty Python, got better. Still, I really would have loved this to be toned down as it will probably be off-putting to some readers, even thick-skinned ones, and the funny gets lost.
The other issue was Satan gets sued and shows up at the trial. Much of the book is absurd, delightfully absurd, kiss reality bye-bye, and yet this was a bridge too far. Nancy Grace - yes, she's a character, and those scenes are admittedly brilliant if you've ever watched her for even five minutes - just accepts this, as does Oprah, as does the judge and the jury, and presumably most people. I enjoyed the trial, as I liked most aspects, but throw me some explanation, even an absurd one. In a book that acknowledges atheists, how? I also acknowledge there are going to be some readers who are going to be able to just go with it and are giving me the old side-eye for this paragraph.
What I'm left with though is the simple fact that I couldn't stop laughing. Every issue I had with plot and characterization is no match for how much fun I had. This is clearly not the book for everyone though.
Characters: 4 1/2 Stars
Satan, it turns out, is the beleaguered manager of hell, and he gets a lot less respect than one might expect. He can't seem to get the demons to do his will, the circles of hell aint what they used to be, and the flames need repair. Funny stuff. Later on, as he explains the whole Fallen Angel thing to a corpse, we sorta get a hint of the whole powerful, majestic, bad-ass version, which may or may not make an appearance toward the end. I liked that too, but consistent characterization, not so much. I supposed a millennia or several dealing with this stuff might break your spirit - and I think that's meant to be the point. Still, I have to say that sticking to some core traits might have been nice.
Satan's assistant was Nero. Yeah, THAT Nero. He also served as Satan's attorney and his credentials involved multiple seasons of Law and Order and some Grisham novels. I understand this based on my credentials as talent scout based on watching American Idol.
Then, we have a nun who means well, but you don't want her to pray for you. A former wrestler who is now a judge. St. Jude. Michael. All your more famous angels and demons. Charo. While Dante never appears, his spirit is definitely felt.
All the characters with any significant "screen time" have clever, zippy dialogue. I'd give you a favorite line or two, but there are too many great ones!
Writing Style: 5 Stars
While I don't agree with all of his choices, I can't deny this was pretty masterful in nearly every way. Great lines, funny and cogent rants - the author is way cooler than I will ever be. He should totally quit his day job, unless his day job is writing, because that would be the opposite of the point I'm trying to make. I'll read this author again!
(What to do with the Amazon stars when you've rated something a 4.5? Since it's my birthday today, I'm feeling generous and rounding up.)
From the author, Grady Hendrix:
1. How did you come up with the idea for the story?
I've had some lousy jobs before - telemarketing cheap jewelry, selling cleaning chemicals to industrial kitchens, going through the garbage of hotels to estimate how many recyclables they were throwing away - and I think that's something everyone has in common. We all spend so much time working in jobs we don't love that it sometimes feels like our lives are going to disappear in an endless round of reports, and quarterly evaluations and bathroom breaks. Then I realized: how much worse must this be if your office is actually in Hell? And how much worse must it be if you're Satan and there will be no promotions, no retirement and no way to transfer to another company? And whenever things are really bad, that's also, simultaneously, when things are really funny.
While reading, I noticed that you went some places a lot of authors wouldn't go. Did you consider pulling your punches? Or did you and was this the, scary to contemplate, tame version?
I think with comedy that second-guessing yourself is the kiss of death. That's how you wind up with "Home Improvement." And I also think that the beauty of ebook self-publishing is that people can stop worrying about what the neighbors think of them and just let it all hang out: the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm currently co-writing a YA series for Little, Brown called The Magnolia League, so SATAN LOVES YOU is like being on vacation where I don't have to worry about what
my agent, my editor and the marketing department are going to think about what I write. There's nothing at stake here except my self-respect, and I once worked as a street performer so I don't have much self-respect anyways. That said, I did take out a long section about being trapped in an infinite Chuck E. Cheese's. Life's bad enough without having to contemplate things like that. It was just too depressing.
Favorite movie or book featuring Satan, other than your own?
I'm a big fan of the Satan you find in Jack Chick's religious tracts. The one who wears a little red suit and spends all his time trying to think up ways to screw people over the second they make the slightest misstep, and then greets them in Hell with a hearty "Haw, haw!"
What's your favorite circle of hell and why?
Personally, I love the first circle because it's just so blatantly unfair. It's reserved for dead people who aren't getting into Heaven because they never got baptized. It's not a bad place, really, but it's just sort of like Discount Heaven, like a nice hotel that has scratchy towels, no channels on TV, and cheap shampoo that never suds up. I imagine it's absolutely crammed with Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and pretty much everyone that a 14th Century Italian would think is going to burn in Hell eternally. Which means that it's probably party central and has really great restaurants.
If Satan Loves You becomes a movie, who would you like to play the title character?
I like that Gollum guy they got for Lord of the Rings. He had really good timing.
6. Anything else you want to say?
Just that I firmly believe in giving people what they pay for. SATAN LOVES YOU is 99 cents, and I truly believe that it's worth every penny.
on December 10, 2011
Top-of-mind: If you're easily offended or seriously religious, this book's not for you.
Grady Hendrix tries to do what Christopher Moore has done so well, and while his work's not on a par with Moore's, Satan Loves You is a fun read. The writing and editing are at times spotty (though formatting problems are generally limited to the occasional lack of white space where there should be a break for a change of scene), but Hendrix's capacity to riff in text on a descriptive passage can suck you in until you're wondering where he can possibly go with his purple prose. And then you turn the page and he suprises you by continuing for another ten or twenty lines, until you're bemused and grudgingly admiring. It's effective in the context of a book which never tries to rise above its natural state of ridiculous, to mimic the sublime. Yes, Moore succumbs to that temptation.
And you can take Hendrix's characters and idea, remix them, and tweak them any way you please -- if you care to have fun with his concept. Satan Loves You is licensed under a Creative Commons "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike" license.
The basic story: Satan's in trouble. The archangels want to take over Hell. What will he do without his mission in afterlife? Every way he turns, he's trapped/entrapped. Some of his minions have deserted him -- the Grim Reaper's desertion means thousands of the undead are walking the earth but not as easily recognizable zombies -- and others are so incompetent, they're no match for the archangels. What's an underdog demon to do? Lie and cheat his way out of this pickle, of course.
But you're not reading this ebook for the story. It's more about the over-the-top irreverent portrayals of characters who are mythological but essential to the beliefs of many folks. Hendrix pokes fun at stereotypes and transforms entities about which we know next to nothing -- entities which don't exist as far as many of us are concerned -- into relatable characters with human foibles. He manages to make Satan the anti-hero for whom you cheer throughout the story.
I'd like to give this book five stars for sheer inventiveness, but the plot is far thinner than the ridiculously entertaining imagined scenes from Hell and Heaven, and the characters. (For blatant stereotypes, thinly drawn, they're tons of fun!) If you want to laugh out loud, and skim over the bad parts, this book can be an entertaining read. Hendrix has a great voice.
Apparently most indie authors regard a three-star review as negative (I would have thought it would mean the work is average, taken as a whole), so I'm forced to assign four stars to Satan Loves You. Stacked up against masterpieces of the genre -- whatever it is -- it's not deserving of five. But don't get me wrong: it's fun to read, good for a laugh, and worth your time if you like off-beat irreverent tales. (I couldn't speak for those who read this kind of thing all the time...)
on November 2, 2011
Funny? With appreciable consistency.
An insightful look into the machinery of heaven and hell? Well, if we wanted something that made sense, we shouldn't be reading a satyrical poke at the cruft of Christian mythology, should we?
Satan Loves You is a Monty Pythonesque (absurd, humorous) romp through hell from Satan's vantage, but this isn't the hell or Satan you'd expect. Gone are the powers of Air and Darkness, gone are the riches to tempt the unwary, gone is the muscled red satyr with the spade-shaped tail and the debonair goatee. Hell is out of money, and the gas-fired jets are sputtering. Satan is a hybrid of Good Guy Lucifer and Earl (of the "My Name Is" variety) - a regular Joe who has accepted that his job is to torture people for all eternity, but still means well and treats everyone fairly. Things in hell were always bad - it is hell, after all - but the story starts off as they get worse, and every possible misfortune strikes the lord of evil at once. Satan is blindsided, and left with no apparent option but to mortgage hell and get out of the way for a hostile takeover, but he's Satan, damnit, and he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
What works: The characters work really well. Minos is bold, Nero is efficient, Michael the Archangel is glorious, Metatron is splendidly geeky, Mary the anti-nun tracks dog-poop through fields of daisies. They are all distinct, breathing, interesting characters - fall guys for whatever joke the author wants to tell at their expense, certainly, but not just the fall guys. Satan is empathetic as the everyman, and it's easy to side with him against the host of heaven. That the Creator God appears only in one scene, and only to be duped by his chief angel, is tone-perfect. And you have to see what the Minotaur can do with a Monopoly board (hint: preserve the balance of creation!)
The humor is rarely laugh-out-loud, but it is frequently worthy of a stifled guffaw. It's generally absurdist, but is worked smoothly into the story and is insightful, rather than obvious or arbitrary.
What doesn't work: While the writing is generally strong, there are a few poorly turned phrases scattered throughout that caused me to stumble in the reading. There are a few places, especially toward the end (Judge Cody comes to mind especially), where the caricatures are so far over the top that the suspension of disbelief is worn thin and it's difficult to care - as though the humor is straying from Monty Python toward "Hot Shots, Part Deux". Like "Hot Shots", much of the humor is topical, and may lose its edge in 5 years or so. The biggest problem, however, are the plausibility conflicts scattered throughout the story. They range from the small (if Death and his minions are on strike, how do the staff of the Quiznos die?) to the medium (why are the angels all glorious, and the demons all horrid, and Satan so average?) to the large (how do heaven and hell operate on money? Why is heaven's income so much larger than hells, if Satan is the lord of Mammon? If Satan can lie/embezzle/steal at will, why doesn't he to line his c?) In a movie, these points would generally be glossed over and forgotten, but in the dozen-or-so hours one devotes to a book, they rise up again and again to pester.
The Takeaway: Like many self-published books, it's priced at a steal. There is much more than $.99 worth of enjoyment to be had here. I'm surprised, actually, to see that it's been self-published. The quality is what one crosses their fingers for in a self-published book; I'd think that with a bit of gentle, third-party editing, it would have been snapped up by a publishing house.
If you enjoy irreverent religious humor, anti-heroes, or underdogs (or even better, all three), it's worth the read.
One of the chapters that I really enjoyed with David Dark's Sacredness of Questioning Everything was about Questioning our Offendedness. It is easy to be offended when people do not believe as you do or seem to make fun of what you consider essential. David Dark has a useful understanding of being able to laugh at yourself and your beliefs. Whenever you are offended instead of seeking after the understanding, hurt or incredulity that is often root of humor I think it can help to build a bridge toward relationship instead of pushing people away.
I heard of Satan Loves You when a friend on Goodreads.com (a social network for readers) wrote a quick review of it. It sounded like a fun bit of satire. And I like satire and humor. Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff and Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series are two very different takes on how different authors have attempted to make fun of religion through fiction. (Norman Mailer's The Gospel According to the Son is a negative example.)
The set up for this book is that Satan is a discouraged manager of hell. He always has budget shortfalls (there is not much money to be made on damned souls). Hell is falling apart because of lack of maintenance (which is an interesting take on torture of the souls in hell). Dante's basic framework of hell provides structure. But past that basic structure everything is pushed to absurdity.
The Angels in heaven have decided to try and take over hell and so Satan keeps getting set up. He is being sued on earth because a (crazy) woman claims ritual satanic abuse. The court scenes are similar in humor to Christopher Buckley's No Way to Treat a First Lady or Supreme Courtship (and I love Christopher Buckley, so that is pretty high praise).
This is an independent author and it is the authors' only full length book in the Amazon store. It is only $0.99, so if you find you don't like it, no big loss. But I enjoyed it, I thought it was quite funny (and definately sacrilegious.)
on May 25, 2013
Jerry Springer: The Opera, The Book of Mormon, The Life of Brian. All controversial works of comedy which focus upon religion, Heaven vs. Hell, and the like, which take themselves far from seriously but have courted controversy over their subject matter from those which do take those kinds of things seriously. Satan Loves You is a book which falls firmly and unashamedly in the same arena as the aforementioned works, and when read by the wrong eyes, may provoke a similar reaction from an audience.
This is the story of Satan, the overworked and under-appreciated lord of the depths of a Hell which hasn't had a fresh idea for new torture for years. The fires are not much more than weak wisps of heat, the lakes of sulphur are reduced to puddles, and the demons are having words with the union about their working conditions. Heaven is enjoying record profits from those that pass through the pearly gates, but as more and more of the world become Godless sinners, Hell is struggling to keep up. To complicate matters further Satan has inadvertently impregnated a nun, attracted a class action lawsuit on the basis that a woman named Frita Babbit allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of Satanic followers, and to top it all off, The Heavenly Host is making a move for a corporate takeover of Hell, by fair means or otherwise.
I have to say, this is a very funny book. Grady Hendrix effortlessly weaves a surrealist yarn that floats atop a sea of undertones. The Heaven vs. Hell theme reeks of a corporate world satire, the courtroom drama is a fantastic commentary on live-on-TV court cases, with a 'Well, he's the Devil, he must be bad," attitude that voids any valid points that Satan, or his lawyer, the Emperor Nero, can make. His descriptive prose is spot on, and the jokes well placed and consistent. Hendrix also displays a marvellous Devil may care attitude (pun entirely intended) with his subject matter, and has absolutely no remorse whatsoever with who he might offend in the process. For this, he deserves, and gets, the utmost of respect from me.
Of course it will not be for everybody, and is bound to divide the opinions of those that pick it up. My advice is to almost forget the religious undertones, and get carried away in the absurd world that Hendrix creates, the humour falls into the bracket of 'childish' at times but to be honest, I'm a massive fan of childish humour when it's executed in the right way, and in Satan Loves You, Grady Hendrix gets it just right. Just a snippet to give you an idea of both the vibe that the book has, and the kind of thing that had me snorting milk through my nose in laughter.
"Your hooves are getting poo all over the carpet."
Surreal. Laugh out loud funny. Controversial. Thought provoking. A must read.
**Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog. May have received free review copy**
on July 30, 2012
The first 80% of the book will have you chuckling and enjoying the hilarious and clever references to actual people, sayings, events, TV shows, and movies as well as the structure of the Underworld and the monetary issues causing a serious loss of services. The story loses momentum toward the end. It is as though the author noticed a deadline coming up, or had a headache, and lost some of the former sharpness. I do plan to read the book again, and I do recommend it.
on October 14, 2011
Hendrix skewers corporate life and simplistic views of religion in this well-written and funny satire. He starts with the premise that the afterlife works on the same model as modern American capitalism and runs with that premise to its furthest extremes. The characters' over-the-top antics had me laughing with surprise and simultaneously saying "Of course that's what they'd do!"
I found the setup a little slow going, but the book is better for having such solid, well-thought-out underpinnings. The worldbuilding is excellent and never frays. Once the characters and Hell are introduced, the book rolls faster and faster until the end.
on February 18, 2014
I like Grady Hendrix. He's weird and inventive, and he has a knack for the jackpot description that can blow your Nikes off. When I see his name, I stop and look by default. Which is why I bought this, knowing nothing of it except the author.
It goes without saying that if you're locked into fundamental religious convictions, this Satan ain't for you.
That out of the way: this is a mixed bag. Hendrix has fun throughout with a merry take on Dante's Inferno. But the central idea - that hell is a poorly run company, ripe for takeover by a merciless corporate acquisitor - is really a one-line joke. And it gets stretched awfully thin by book's end.
The physical descriptions of hell are superb - funny, striking, different. The characters, both hellish and heavenly, are with one glaring exception brilliantly drawn. The dialogue, oddly, is meh. One example - Hendrix inexplicably gives one of hell's minions a classic, clanking Brooklyn accent. Not only does it not fit the classical mythologic figure, it's not well done. And most conversations here come up a bit short in the punchline/point department. This is partly the fault of Hendrix's Satan, surely the drabbest, most uninspiring, incapable, and dreary dweeb of a manager you'll ever find on the bridge of a foundering corporate ship.
I get it - that's the joke. It's just too much of a good thing. The archangelic forces of heaven read like the immortal legions of Marvel. Their hellish counterparts are legendary figures, albeit thrust into the career trap of seedy middle management. It's Satan himself that's the problem. This is a guy you wouldn't trust to pick somebody's pocket in the subway without flubbing up.
Come on. Give Lucifer a little occasional dark grandeur. The description of the archangel Michael entering a wrestling ring - read it - is IMO one of the knockout sketches of all time. By contrast, our devilish Prince of Dullness will punch your snooze button into a coma. His utter blandness leads to a cop-out climax that largely deflates the project.
I'll read it again. Just the re-imagining of Dante is worth the ticket. But this still could've, should've, been more.
One other thing - go Kindle, don't buy the paperback. It looks like a high school print-shop project.