David Michael,
The Summoning Fire
(CreateSpace, 2010)

Bam! This book starts by dumping the reader into the middle of Hell on Earth, a region in Eastern Oklahoma where a rift between Earth and Hell has opened and an entire city of demons, devils, vampires and zombies has developed around it.

When I say "dump" I mean the story starts, without much preamble, with the protagonist, Reese, almost dying and seeing her lover, a woman named Sam, get killed in a Satanic ritual run by the Old Man, a half-human/half-devil prince of Hell. From that point on, the chapters cover what led up to the ritual, a summoning by fire, and the aftermath. The chapters do not strictly alternate, and you have to look at the chapter titles, that are subtitled either Before the Fire or After the Fire. If you don't, you'd be totally lost and confused.

The "Before the Fire" chapters give us the background of the story. How did Hell on Earth come to be? How did Reese end up there? What was the Reese-Sam relationship like? How do they know the Old Man? Why did the Old Man kill Sam? What did he summon through the ritual, and why?

The "After the Fire" chapters tell us about Reese trying to survive without Sam. Will she get revenge? Will she survive the attempt(s)? How can she get to the Old Man in his fortress-like office building, surrounded by a small army of devils, demons and zombies? What is that horrible thing following Reese?

The writing is strong technically, with good pace and word usage. The gore, mayhem, horror, cruelty and other forms of ugliness are unrelenting. Yet, beneath that, there is also a love story and an attempt for good to triumph over evil. The structure of the book, with the chapters shifting between timelines, can be off-putting and confusing. However, if you read the chapter subtitles, the story becomes comprehensible. Would it be better if it were written more linearly? Easier to read? Yes. Better? I'm not sure.

I would liken this book to driving by a horrific traffic accident. Most people would be appalled but some would also be fascinated. This book has literary a gawker's delay factor; it horrifies you but you want to read on.

book review by
Chris McCallister

5 March 2011

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