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God's Demon Hardcover – October 16, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Best known for extraordinarily imaginative fantasy art, Barlowe (Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials) now sets his talents to writing equally compelling speculative fiction. Inspired by Paradise Lost, Barlowe conjures up the creatures who sided with Lucifer and were ejected from heaven, thrown down into Hell to become freakishly mangled demons. After innumerable eons of exile, the demon Sargatanas has started to dream of being reunited with God. Sargatanas amasses an army to aid him in overthrowing Lucifer's regent, Beelzebub, in an attempt to catch God's eye. In a flash of inspiration, Sargatanas adds human souls to his army, under the direction of Hannibal. Together, human sinners and once-rebellious demons unite to vanquish Beelzebub in an all-out war. Barlowe's interpretation is not for the squeamish, with its horrifically explicit descriptions of demonic behavior, but it's a compelling view of Hell and of a demon who seeks redemption. (Oct.)
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Top customer reviews
Boy, was I wrong!
I’ll try to spoil as little as possible in this review, so I’ll first give an outline of the novel that doesn’t delve into important plot details. Barlowe paints (heh) a portrait of Hell that’s heavily inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In his Hell, the various demons were originally angels cast down there after following Lucifer in a failed rebellion against “The Throne,” though Barlowe carefully avoids any specific mention of Christianity. It’s also clear this is very much his own vision of Hell.The story revolves around yet another rebellion in Hell itself, with the intent of getting back to heaven! Lord Sargatanas, a mighty and powerful demon lord (Major Demon) is our protagonist. He has spent millennia in Hell, has grown tired of it, regrets following Lucifer’s rebellion, and now wants to return…which means he must raise an army against the current reigning lord of all Hell, Beelzebub, who took over after Lucifer disappeared. Quite an interesting premise, eh?
Barlowe runs with it extremely well. His vision of Hell is populated with a variety of characters, ranging from powerful Demons Minor, super-powerful Demons Major (like the protagonist Sargatanas), the unfortunate damned souls who also serve as building blocks for Hell’s buildings, and even Abyssals, Hell’s “native fauna” which were driven away when all the demons fell. As an aside, most of the demon names, like Eligor, Valefar, Agares, etc. come from the old famous book of demons, The Lesser Key of Solomon, which I thought was a cool touch, though I’m biased–my favorite upcoming Kickstarter game, Bloodstained, is heavily inspired by The Key of Solomon as well 😉 But anyways, this setting means that God’s Demon has a lot of elements of politics and battle strategy as well as the standard swords and sorcery fare one might find in a fantasy novel. Sargatanas has to raise an army, meaning he has to woo demons away from under Beelzebub’s banner, and then lead those armies in battle, requiring many strategems and such. All that is fantastically portrayed, the big battles and their tactics were impressive and gripping, and the individual fights were fantastic–Barlowe isn’t quite R.A. Salvatore, but he’s not too far off either, and I was very impressed to see an artist write swordplay and action so well.
While reading books like Barlowe’s Inferno and Brushfire: Illuminations from the Inferno will give you a clear idea of what the characters look like, AND (very important!) spoil you massively for God’s Demon, Barlowe’s prose also does more than enough for the task. He does an excellent job of vividly describing the many creatures he’s invented, whether the incredibly creepy way millions of flies compose the primary antagonist and leader of Hell, Beelzebub, or the way other demons shift their bodies to their whim, growing eyes and limbs in accordance with their needs as they send up spells and magic glowing sigils and glyphs into the skies to command their armies of summoned creatures or even damned souls. And Barlowe certainly makes it clear this book isn’t for kids…some of scenes of horrible deaths suffered by demons and other important characters are thoroughly spine-tingling and stomach-churning, minor spoilers but I recommend avoiding the later parts of the book if you have a fear of flies!
Again, no spoilers, but I’ll cap off this review with, at last, some praise for the characters themselves. Sargatanas is a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist to root for, Beelzebub is a suitably villainous antagonist to root against, the love story and scenes were great, there’s a surprising reveal about one of the damned souls that would have really caught me by surprise if I hadn’t been spoiled by Barlowe’s Inferno ( ;_; ) and the final battle had me at the edge of my seat, though it all concludes satisfactorily. A great read all in all, I heartily recommend it!
Ignoring the entire cover (art and title) I gave a resigned sigh and opened to the acknowledgment page where the author thanks both living and dead. THAT was unusual but I figured it had something to do with a family member passing on while the book was being written. Skipped everything the author had to say as that's usually worthless - after reading for over 30 years I know why these are written and its usually to assuage something or explain the entire book's premise, when the premise should be understood after reading it. Its like an "I'm sorry" before you read it, so I pass.
I read the Prologue and Chapters 1-5, carried the book with me while I found my friend and started asking questions: What happened to this character? How does this end? Where is this going? My friend told me to read it. I told him, I don't like surprises, that's why I read ROMANCE and Vince Flynn novels. I know the end. My life is chaotic enough that I don't need my reading leisure time to be unenjoyable and filled with tension. He told me it was based on Milton's Paradise Lost and didn't I read the acknowledgment? Well, no. He rolled his eyes and said read the acknowledgment. So I did and then I figured that since I probably wasn't going to finish the book, and would probably lie to my friend about having read it, I skipped to the end so when we had a conversation about it, I'd know enough.
I read the last chapter. Then I read the chapter before that. Then the 3rd to the last chapter. Then I was about 6 chapters before the end and read it straight through, and tears sprung forth.
When my friend asked if I had finished the book I didn't lie, I said yes, but I added that I was going to read it again, and this time I did - taking 5 days. Some chapters were so heart wrenching that I couldn't go on without examining my own life and beliefs compared to the story line in that chapter. On other days I wouldn't, couldn't do anything else but read and then re-read what Barlowe had written.
At the end, I wept openly AGAIN and sat on my couch knowing that my mind had been opened by this author's years long effort.
My friend asked how I liked the book and I told him he wasn't getting it back. Its staying near my nightstand for the rest of my life, for in the dark and lonely times, there is hope, even in Hell.