Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Demon Squad: Beyond the Veil review

    Whether you like Beyond the Veil can be summarized by a single sentence : do you, the reader, find the idea of a Clint Eastwood-looking Jesus fighting aliens with the Devil's Son, and Longinus on a planet of zebra-colored Star Trek humanoids intriguing? If this is the case, then Beyond the Veil is the kind of book for you. If you, instead, find this way too over-the-top then you won't enjoy this book as it thrives on that concept and is only going to get more so from here.

    The Demon Squad series started relatively low-key with Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg being the Devil's Nephew and serving as the half-demon attache to a group of monster hunters in a world which both God as well as the Devil have abandoned. Five books later, Frank is the ruler of Hell and teamed up with God, Jesus, Longinus, Lucifer, and others against a race loosely inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. This battle is taking place not only Earth but across a multiverse full of alien worlds and alternate dimensions.

    To say the scale of the stories have changed is understating things.

    And you know what?

    I like it.

    I'm a big fan of the Dresden Files but one of the things I disliked about the series is not much seemed to actually change in the series until the appropriately-titled Changes. Say what you will about the anime-esque power escalation of the Demon Squad series but things are always moving forward and I can't say I disapprove. All they need to do is an animated series of vignettes set to the Attack On Titan theme and it's the kind of series I would have loved in high school.

    And do love as an adult.

    The premise of this book is Karra, Frank's erstwhile love-interest, Karra, has been kidnapped by the Eidilons and taken off to dimensions unknown. Teaming up with her father, Longinus, Frank leaves Hell behind in hopes of recovering her. He finds himself on a new world, with no support, and faced with a potentially all-powerful opponent. The series' trademark shocking revelations are plentiful this time around and not all of its signature characters make it to the end of the volume.

    Good stuff.

    The character development where Frank goes from being someone who has always admired his uncle (actual father) as well as assumes there's something resembling affection to someone who realizes, no, the Devil is scum and always has been is a powerful change. I've always felt Lucifer was Frank's blind spot in his relationships and it's nice to see that rectified, painful as the manner may be. I also liked the fact Frank finally takes steps to secure his position as a force to be reckoned with. Too often, he's been the butt monkey of the universe and it's nice to see him get some serious punching power.

    It's interesting to watch Longinus also warm to the fact Frank is, not only his enemy's son, but also his daughter's one-true-love. In many ways, Longinus is a more stereotypical anti-hero for these kinds of books. He's an unstoppable badass who easily dwarfs Frank in power but he's also, well, stupid. Frank sees the puppet strings all around them and it's this ability which makes him capable of cutting through them. How Frank and Karra's relationship changes in the book is something which I think will generate all manner of interesting drama, which I approve of. I'm a bit disappointed such a badass female character was used as a kidnap victim this time around but the book gave a decent explanation why she wasn't in tip-top fighting condition.

     I'm a bit iffy about God and Jesus' portrayal in the book as both of them are portrayed as kind of, well, jerks. At least one, admittedly untrustworthy, character believes God is going to attempt to reclaim all of his lost energy from his creations. Likewise, Jesus has very little of his usual hippie peace-loving self and really wants to beat Longinus' face in. Then again, Longinus kind of has it coming as well. While religious, I'm willing to cast any problems with this portrayal aside because, hey man, it's fiction, but others may have difficulty. Besides, there's something fun about Jesus bunching out Hastur and his buddies on another planet.

    The best part of the book, for me, was definitely the climax. Beyond the Veil has the series trademark apocalyptic ending with the usual impossible fight against a godlike being. It also adds a series of tough decisions, betrayals, twists, and emotional heartbreaks that raises it above even Armageddon Bound. I was genuinely surprised several times in the final pages and, yet, everything all made sense in the end. As has become the series style, Frank manages to save the day at mere cost of everything.

    Overall, I really liked this book and I think it's the best of the Demon Squad books so far. The shift to more sci-fi and high fantasy storytelling doesn't bother me. Indeed, it makes the series more distinct in my mind.


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