September 15, 2012

4 stars for ebook “Demonworld” by Kyle Stiff


4 Stars out of 5: With a few awkward meta-moments, and an ending that doesn’t have enough sense of resolution, the book isn’t perfect. But it is a pretty good read for fans of the genre that are comfortable with a lot of swearing (actual swearing, not made up fantasy swearing), and violence. There are also some anti-religion over-tones to parts of it which may offend readers with a religious background. Having all that said, “Demonworld” is a well-written and well-paced book with a great sense of the high-fantasy genre. The characters are well developed and the villains are uniquely and appropriately awful. There’s also a great philosophical basis for the book and some really interesting ideas discussed throughout. I, for one, and looking forward to seeing more of this series and more from this author!


“Demonworld” is a novel by Kyle Stiff that combines elements of the science fiction and fantasy genres to tell the story of one boy’s journey through a demonic wasteland. Wodan grows up in a secluded scientifically-advanced society called Haven. There are rumors and legends about the terrors beyond the island of Haven, but no one from Haven has ever wanted to see them up close. Wodan is no exception, but he is not given a choice when he is drugged, abducted and abandoned in the middle of a valley where flesh-demons rule as deities. It’s a hostile world where hardship and horror have reduced humanity to small warring tribes, barbaric death worship, human sacrifice, and slavery. Wodan never wanted to be a hero, but he begins to realize that if he ever wants to see Haven again, he’ll have to kill for it; he might even have to change the world.

Mr. Stiff’s novel is an amazing read that uses the best elements of fantasy without ever feeling derivative of Tolkien. In any fantasy book, creating a high-fantasy world without pirating ideas from “Lord of the Rings” is a huge accomplishment, and Mr. Stiff does it amazingly well. There are no wizards, or orcs or elves, and even though a dwarf makes a brief appearance, I get the feeling he’s the genetic kind of dwarf that doesn’t particularly appreciate the title. The way Mr. Stiff uses science fiction is interesting too, because he uses the scientific and social advancement of Haven as a foil for the backward barbarism of the Wastelands constantly under the threat of demons.  Using elements from both genres gives the world of the story a great sense of dynamism and makes for an interesting and strangely believable backdrop for the story.

“Demonworld” is also impressively written, with lots of action and a great sense of pace that never loses focus or abandons characterization. Much of the world revolves around demons, but Mr. Stiff gives his demons a grotesque physical presence, and a warped world-view that makes them uniquely horrible villains. They aren’t your every day unseen-evil-presence sort of demons, they’re brilliantly intelligent, slimy, ugly monsters, and it’s no wonder the novel’s whole world fears and reviles them.

Another impressive quality in “Demonworld’ is the amount of philosophical thought behind the plot and characters. There are a myriad of different perspectives presented, and each one has an understandable logical progression. Even the pain-and-torture-worshiping philosophy of the demons is surprisingly coherent, and the people who fall under its influence embrace it with entirely believable motivations. Unlike a lot of stories with this kind of conflict, the villains in this story want to destroy the world for fairly consistent reasons that all are very logical conclusions from the demon’s perspective. The fact that the ugly, brain-sucking, tentacled sacks of mucus have a logical belief system actually makes them seem worse than merely effective murder machines.

“Demonworld” is a fun and interesting read that will remind high-fantasy fans why they love the genre.

But there are a few weird choices the author makes that detract a little from an otherwise-amazing read. Firstly, there are a handful of meta moments where characters talk about writing science fiction, and then go on to explain the point of “their” book. In a book so well written and well crafted, this seems unnecessary and distracting. Characters also occasionally discuss comic books and video games in a way that seems like a self-conscious defense of nerd culture from the author, instead of a feature of the story or the characters. Intelligent and well-written high-fantasy seems like a more credible and more enjoyable way to convey the idea that high-fantasy has unique and interesting ideas to offer otherwise normal adults, and that point would have been better served if these moments had been left out.

The other disappointment in “Demonworld” is the end of the book, which doesn’t give the reader much resolution. Granted, this is a book-one of a series, but it feels like an incomplete story. There are a lot of things that the author sets up for future books, but he also makes these elements major parts of the story which go frustratingly unresolved. Even the opening book in a series needs to stand on its own merits, and this one doesn’t. There’s too much time spent developing plot points for other books that actually have no effect on the story, and the event that allows the whole book to happen goes entirely unexplained. The way to set up a series is through subtle details, not major plot holes, and series or not, a book should be satisfying as a single story first. “Lord of the Rings” may have been published as three books, but there was still a sense of resolution at the end of “Fellowship of the Ring.”  

4 Stars out of 5: With a few awkward meta-moments, and an ending that doesn’t have enough sense of resolution, the book isn’t perfect. But it is a pretty good read for fans of the genre that are comfortable with a lot of swearing (actual swearing, not made up fantasy swearing), and violence. There are also some anti-religion over-tones to parts of it which may offend readers with a religious background. Having all that said, “Demon World” is a well-written and well-paced book with a great sense of the high-fantasy genre. The characters are well developed and the villains are uniquely and appropriately awful. There’s also a great philosophical basis for the book and some really interesting ideas discussed throughout. I, for one, and looking forward to seeing more of this series and more from this author!

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