"Entertaining Demons" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Apex Publishing
Written by Daniel I. Russell
2017, 330 pages, Fiction
Released on 26th July, 2017
Do you watch too much television? How often do you lazily take the easy option of bingeing another flick instead of doing something more productive, like taking a long healthy brisk walk, with your life? Most of us are probably guilty of overindulging with the remote control. However, after reading Daniel Russell’s Entertaining Demons, you might decide to become slightly more proactive with your time. Why? This novel has considerable fun playing around with the old saying “idle hands are the devil’s tools” and in the modern world if the lazy watch too much television, the devil is doing a jig in the background pulling your strings.
Entertaining Demons begins in the sleepy English town of Downing and fifteen-year-old Molly is looking forward to her sixteenth birthday, which is just around the corner. The first chapter is startlingly effective; Molly is in her bedroom and when she rises from her bed, weird stuff begins to happen when the toy dolls on her shelves begin to move unaided. It takes a few pages to reveal what is going on; Molly is being filmed for a hit television show called PI: Paranormal Investigation, which airs on a satellite channel once a week. The programme has grown in popularity and Molly has become a minor TV star and in recent weeks the paranormal activity, which seems to be genuine, has been escalating. This fact, of course, excites the network bigwigs and owner Coop, who is looking to expand the reach of Paranormal Investigation, potentially into a 24-hour live show. But is there enough ghost action to support a twenty-four-hour show? Would viewers be satisfied by watching a sleepy Molly eating cornflakes for breakfast and not flick channels in boredom?
From the opening sequences it appears Entertaining Demons is going to be one of many samey haunted house novels with a team of sceptical paranormal investigators doing the debunking, but to its credit it heads into juicier and more unpredictable directions. Molly lives with her casually racist grandfather, who loves the cash the show brings in, and regularly visits her mentally disturbed mother who is a resident in a local home.
Odd stuff frequently happens around Molly, who is an engaging and sympathetic main character. Although she is not famous, other teens are jealous of her success and she struggles to lead a normal life, especially with the complications involving her sick mother and mysteriously absent father. The television crew of Samuel, Dave and Patrick are closer to her than her real family and they suspect the increase of activity in the house is due to a powerful demon and don’t believe increasing the television coverage is a good idea. The town of Downing does its best to sweep the show under the carpet and frowns upon increased tourism and wider media attention, which ultimately includes Molly.
The second major story strand is equally impressive and, eventually, convincingly connects with Molly and PI: Paranormal Investigation, however, in the early stages you will wonder how. We head to the Kempuur region of the Sudan and the leader of a local extremist militia, Samir; ISIS is never mentioned, but it springs to mind. He is a vicious brute; murder, torture and rape come as naturally to this dude as breathing. However, Samir has a very beautiful wife, Fazilah, who holds much sway over her husband and is even permitted to watch western television shows. At this point the reader gets the first inkling into how the plots might connect, and it is a very clever one. Before long Fazilah is watching the most recent episode of Paranormal Investigation and observes a shadow on the screen we cannot see. This image excites her greatly. From then on the plot moves between the Sudan, America and England, with the reader being led on an entertaining dance.
Although Entertaining Demons has quite a lot of humour, it also features a few scenes which are so violent they had my eyes watering, so if you’re squeamish watch out for them. The first is a rape-torture scene in Sudan and later on another character is also brutally tortured to extract information. The inflictor on both occasions is Jahad, and although he is more of a puppet than a major character, this guy will have you running a mile, as he is one nasty piece of work who glories in inflicting pain.
On a deeper level, Entertaining Demons implies there are supernatural beings everywhere doing the devil’s work and mankind just feeds this monster by watching television, porn, feeding lust and every other low-life activity you might care to think of. Perhaps because it is currently on television in the UK, I could not help thinking of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, where angels and demons also walk amongst us. However, do not think for a second the demons in this novel are anything like the bumblers in the Pratchett novel, far from it, they are unbelievably unpleasant and a decent chunk of the story is seen from their point of view. As the wider supernatural conspiracy deepens you may make other comparisons, the 1970s Hammer film To the Devil a Daughter is one which springs to mind.
I thoroughly enjoyed Entertaining Demons, which is an imaginative and thoughtfully written novel loaded with clever ideas and a sly sense of humour. I think I will eschew watching television for a while, you never know who might be lurking in the shadows looking to trap a fresh soul!
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