DEMIURGE-Blood of the Innocent by Michael R. Hagan

The law of averages dictate, with all the baseless predictions and educated guesses made throughout mankind’s recorded existence, some of these will have proven accurate, many others quite the opposite.  There have however  been examples of auguries or predictions which transpired to be uncannily accurate, describing events and unfolding consequences in such detail, the last remaining defense for any skeptic is the classic, vaticinatio post eventum*…. That they were in fact fraudulently created after the incidents described took place.”

This is one of those mashups of detective mystery, paranormal spirit/demon/god story, The DaVinci Code tale, thriller, archeologically-based plot that partners a somewhat loose cannon homicide detective who has some kind of special foresight or insight abilities, with a respected archeologist working in a dig in Iran, against an entity which we are not sure until the end is a demon, a god, THE god, some universal force, or what.  But this entity believes that mankind has ruined everything and the only way to cure the world is by spilling the blood of the innocent.  This entity has fathered a son with a Nigerian virgin teenager, who dies in childbirth.  The child is found to have some kind of crazy special abilities, such as curing ailments, wounds and injuries, and special foreknowledge.

Yeah, see what I mean?

The detective is called to a murder scene where an entire family has been brutally murdered and placed at their dining room table set as if for a party.  Fingerprints reveal the perpetrator to be a resident of a local psychiatric institute.  Also a resident at this institute is a former preacher, who is now apparently in thrall to the entity, and has as his life’s mission to kill the special boy.  The baby born to the teenage mother, who is now 9 years old),  has been placed in an obscure group foster home for his safety.

The archeologist and his team at last uncover a buried room in a cave in Iran which has cuneform symbols all around it making predictions.  And those same strange symbols were found painted in blood at the murder scene.  An attempt to learn their meaning is what brings together the archeologist and the detective.

The idea is that the entity inserted himself into various places and situations during the growth of civilization in order to create the events that were prophesied.   So we bounce around in the book between the archeological dig, the homicide investigation, the growing problem of protecting the boy, and flashbacks to the entity’s efforts throughout the ages.

As one reviewer put it, “Very Dark, very gnostic, very intense.”   And another calls it a horror thriller with pseudo-mystical trappings that the author outlines in a broad-brush introduction of the ancient myths.”   Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

*or Vaticinium ex eventu,   “prophecy from the event”),  a technical theological or historiographical term referring to a prophecy written after the author already had information about the events being “foretold”. The text is written so as to appear that the prophecy had taken place before the event, when in fact it was written after the events supposedly predicted. Vaticinium ex eventu is a form of hindsight bias.

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THE STRANGE CASE OF SUSANNA by G. H. Komali

susannaPsychological horror story,  novella length, badly in need of editing.   Poor, stilted dialog, and a basic plot line that did not make a lot of sense.

Clara, a single woman who has moved to Australia  from the UK just for the adventure of it, decides to adopt a child with a disturbing past, 11 year old Susanna.  The child is creepy and speaks to a ghost that Clara cannot see.  Strange events unfold – the family cat gets murdered,  the annoying  old lady next door is found dead in her bed, and Clara’s sleepover date is found stabbed to death in the kitchen in the morning after.  Strangely enough, Clara bundles him up and buries him in the woods, and cleans up the kitchen.  I guess he wasn’t that great in bed.  Let that be a lesson to you, gents.   She never calls the police in spite of all the blood on Susanna’s dress.  How odd.

It ends up being a case of Clara being mentally whacko and taking on other personalities, and of Susanna never existing.  Really strange, not particularly well done, and I have no idea how or why I acquired this book in the first place.  I finished it because it was short enough for hope to triumph over experience,  but sadly, disappointment was to be my lot.

Don’t bother with it, Gentle Readers.  It will be time lost you will never get back.

FORTUNE COOKIE by Daniel Cotton

Foretune cookieThis is kind of a fun tale — well, fun, that is if you like your fun seasoned with a little paranormal, a little horror, a few improbable events, and just a dash of made-up Chinese legendary warriors.

Sam is 16, Caucasian, the adopted son of a Chinese couple who operate a restaurant cum opium den in China Town.  Just which city I have forgotten.  They couple also has a natural born daughter.

He is sent by the folks to retrieve his sister, who it turns out, is making a few extra bucks on the side by cutting cocaine for some Hispanic lowlifes.  The folks don’t know this, of course.  They think she is doing something wholesome.  Threatened by the thugs, Sam goes full on Hulk, destroying said thugs, surprising even himself.

Then in subsequent events, Sam becomes even more deadly.  Can you imagine!

You can see where this is going, right?  It has the feel of a teenage boy’s daydream, where he becomes the outsized warrior hero in the face of danger.

Turns out the danger is the Jiagshi, which are fighter, shadow soul knight,  devil of the abyss,  devil/ demon.  They have a vampire-like aspect.  They are legendary from ancient Chinese lore.  (Well, actually, no they are not.  The idea is from some video game, I think.  But why spoil the fun, eh?)  It also turns out that Sam is one himself, gaining in power, and he eventually goes to China to rid the land of these Ancient Evil Ones.

Yeah, I know.  It is all pretty improbable, and even a decent suspension of disbelieve doesn’t get you through it, but it was a pleasant journey (except for the bloody parts) nonetheless.  Here’s my policy — if it is really gosh-awful, I don’t finish reading the book.  I mean, why bother, right?  But if it has some redeeming qualities, and I have already invested some time, yeah, I’ll finish the book.  The writing was good, and by that I mean the sentence structure, the ideas flowing properly paragraph by paragraph, good editing, no boo boos of any kind that I spotted.  It was just the rather puerile story line.  Maybe because it is only novella length.  Perhaps a full length novel version would lay out all the elements a little more slowly, so the preposterous becomes thinner, not tossed at the reader all at once.  But what do I know, I am not a writer, only a reader with often rather low standards.

It would work really well as a graphic novel, I am sure.  Probably better than as a prose novel.

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WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson

we have always lived in the castleFor me, Shirley Jackson is the Absolute Master of the understated horror story.  I guess she is best known for the short story, The Lottery, and the novel, The Haunting of Hill House.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is about two sisters living alone in the family mansion with only senile and unwell Uncle Julian and the narrator, Merricat’s cat Jonas.  Mary Katherine Blackwell, 18,  and her older sister, Constance, 28, along with Uncle Julian live in an isolated decrepit house outside of a New England village, where the villagers hate them and hold them in great disdain.  the reason for this turns out to be the poisoning deaths six years ago of the rest of the family:  mother, father, brother and the wife of Uncle Julian.  There was arsenic in the sugar at dinner.  Merricat escaped because she was sent to her room for bad behavior, Constance did not like sugar and Uncle Julian only used a very small amount on his berries, and was quite ill, but did not die.

Constance was arrested for the murders, and sent to trial where she was acquitted, and now hides out in the house, never leaving the grounds.

It is a goosebumpy recounting, with Uncle Julian now confined to a wheel chair, writing a book about that day, and constantly fuzing over all the insignificant details and talking about it constantly.

Life, however is now peaceful, and nobody bothers them, until the day that cousin Charles arrives, looking for money, and finding this extremely odd assortment of individual living there.  His presence leads to unforeseen consequences and a not-altogether surprising semi climax, but to a very surprising ending.  Surprising but altogether fitting.

There is no underlying evil, only underlying sadness, and the notion of mental illness is touched upon, crept up on, gently and softly looked at.  What seems like cruelty and meanness on the part of the villagers is exposed as fear.   It was meant to be a shocker, as was The Lottery, contrasting the peaceful picturesqueness of a small, quaint New England town with the uglier realities.

Great book.