Sunday, February 06, 2011
Here Be Demons
By Esther Friesner
An archaeology professor's summer job is leading tours to dig sites and letting the tourist try their hand at digging for a couple weeks. The latest site is in Egypt and the professor, who has never had a successful dig, is hoping to discover the location of an ancient monastery. What he doesn't know is that the site he and his merry band will be staying at is infested with demons.
The demons are outcasts from Hell, sentenced to stay in this desert location until they succeed in tempting at least one human to sign away his or her soul. The demons are an unpleasant lot but turn out to be no match for their human quarry because, deep down, the demons are just not that demonic.
This is one of those books with an amusing cover & an blurb on the back describing it as "a hell of a lot of fun." But it is just not that funny or even mildly amusing. One of the characters you meet at the beginning is Steve Ritter about whom you are given fascinating glimpses that he is more than he appears. But then, he fades into just a minor character until the end of the story when his true identity is revealed. I was wanting to read more about the mystery of Steve, but not much more is said, except for some mysterious and not very enlightening conversations he has with the demon trying to tempt him.
I also found the story rather directionless, the characters being pushed and pulled without really getting anywhere until the last part when several of them are snatched away to some place that isn't Purgatory but is in the same neighborhood. There is a lot going on but it all seems rather pointless as media types descend on the dig, earthquakes uncover tombs and ancient temples still filled with nubile priestess prostitutes pop up out of the sand then sink back down again. I think there was maybe too much going on in the story and it all made for a kind of a mish-mosh. To me, the most interesting part of the story was when several people are taken down to the Purgatory-esque place and each has their own unique encounter there. My two favorites were Honest Ariel's Sandwiche Shoppe (Ariel is an angel who still hasn't decided whether he is on the side of God or the Devil and even though he is indecisive he is an excellent chef) and the temple of the fish god, who turns out to be a pretty decent guy. I did find some aspect of the ending a bit confusing, though.
Anyway, even though I thought the story was lacking and not funny, still I did like the last part so I will say it made for a fair read.
Check out Battle Hymns for another review of the book.