Friday, August 28, 2015

Demon Squad: Aftermath review

    The ninth of Tim Marquitz's Demon Squad novels, Aftermath has a hefty task ahead of itself as it not only has to re-establish its lead character after the traumatic events of the last three books but rock the foundations of the setting by moving from a Judaeo-Christian worldview to a more all-encompassing mythology involving the deities of multiple pantheons.

    For those who don't know anything about the series, Demon Squad follows the adventures of Frank Trigg, the Devil's Nephew (later revealed to be his son) as he works with an organization called DRAC to fight the supernatural after God and the Devil leave the world. The series straddle the line between urban fantasy and epic fantasy given one day Frank might be fighting demons in his hometown in one book only to be trapped in an Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom-inspired dimension another.

    The book opens with Frank on a three-month-long bender of alcohol and hard drugs designed to numb himself silly after the murder of his love interest. Frank has descended into a self-hating funk not only because he can't resurrect Karra from the dead but because he wrecked a horrifying vengeance on her killers which would make Saw's Jigsaw proud.

    Abandoning his daughter with his angelic cousin Scarlett, Frank knows he's being both a horrible father as well as person in general but can't help himself. Tim Marquitz captures Frank's emotions extremely well while maintaining the character's trademark wit. I really think it's some of Tim's best writing and I think he's outdone himself writing it.

    Then someone nukes the hick town Frank's staying in.

    Aftermath seems to be a novel designed as a "jumping on" point for new readers in much the same way comic books frequently make it possible for new readers to catch up despite ages of continuity porn. This is an odd choice for a novel but one I don't think is a bad idea in today's digitized world. Aftermath re-introduces the cast to Tim Marquitz's world, re-establishes their relationships, and gives a self-contained plot which broadens the scope of the world significantly.

    The biggest change Aftermath produces, with no spoilers as this is revealed in the opening chapters, is the introduction of other cosmologies than the Judaeo-Christian one. God, it turns out, is just one of many gods which have been there all along. The Demon Squad Yahweh has always been morally ambiguous in the series but shifts over to outright villainous when we find out he's stolen the world from the other pantheons.
    Speaking as a religious person, I don't mind this as I'm able to separate my real-world beliefs from my fiction. Other individuals may prove to be bothered by this change but since Demon Squad was always a series drawing heavy inspiration from the Hellblazer comic, this doesn't come as a huge surprise to me. It also provides Frank with potentially hundreds of opponents ranging from Surtur to the Aztec pantheon.

    I also liked the depiction of what the mortals have been up to in the past situation. With the many cosmological fights against gods and demigods, they've been often left behind. Discovering what the government, DRAC, and other groups have been doing to fight the many supernatural threats unleashed in the wake of Frank's actions. While I will always hate the character of Shaw, she's one of the few characters who can stand up to Frank as an antagonist while remaining alive. She's deliciously hateable.

    In conclusion, Aftermath is an awesome book. If you want to see the series at its best, you should pick this book up. Its got snark, humor, drama, anger, angst, despair, and world-building all combined together.


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