‘Entertaining Demons’ is the new gristly tale from the saint of Splatterpunk Daniel I Russell – author of ‘Mother’s Boys’ and ‘Tricks Mischief and Mayhem’.
The novel is centred on the fifteen-year-old Molly Moore – the star of a paranormal investigation television programme which sees her tormented by spirits on a nightly basis for the pleasure of thousands of viewers. Unfortunately, Molly gets more than she signed up for when the entities infiltrating her home turn out to be a little more dangerous than the standard poltergeist.
Russell’s writing style is veraciously vivid and fearless, staying true to the no-limits nature of his genre. Although at times it feels as though the extremities he depicts are there purely to fill a Splatterpunk quota of sorts, since he occasionally opts for shock tactics over taste – as showcased by erotic torture scenes that do not slot all that well into the plot. That being said, on the large part he manages to blend image and dialogue well to create scenes that are both tantalising and terrifying.
As such imagery may lead some to believe, ‘Entertaining Demons’ is not just a straight up horror tale whose main goal is to repulse readers. With themes that run much deeper than the blood and gore may have you assume, it actually proves to be a pretty complex tale. Politics come into play quite frequently throughout the novel, particularly in regards to gender, as demonstrated in the depiction of Molly and her role as a fifteen-year-old girl within the television industry. At times it is foul how young Molly is treated by the older males she has to work with, some of whom tell her to “make yourself pretty for the fans. I know they like all this paranormal crap, but we don’t want to scare them too much.” It does well to prove that demons aren’t the only insufferable beings around.
In terms of structure, the focus of the novel is split fairly evenly between the protagonists and the antagonists. Judging it according to how it affects the story-telling, this method of structuring eliminates the air of mystery somewhat and leaves fewer questions to be asked, meaning there is less to keep the reader hooked. Thankfully, Russell keeps just enough concealed, ensuring that his audience remains sharp. By structuring the novel in this way, Russell is highlighting a balance that is very applicable to real life. By giving just as much attention to the evil and the good, it shows that they aren’t such black and white concepts. It is refreshing to find an author who does not sugar coat reality and offers readers a bleak yet necessary alternative to the ‘good guys’ always winning.
Furthermore, when it comes to characters, there is a sense of detachment that makes it hard to empathise with any of them, whether victim or villain. In a way, this is a good thing because it blurs the line between good and evil even more so – as a reader, you find yourself not really rooting for anyone, as is often the case in contemporary politics. Again, it adds a splatter of reality to the mix which makes it all the more relatable despite the seemingly farfetched nature of the story.
‘Entertaining Demons’ offers a bleak sense of reality while also providing some much needed escapism for readers – achieving a balance that is seemingly difficult to find. Due to the way in which it is structured, the overall plot can run pretty dry at times, making it somewhat difficult to progress onwards. However, the constant twists and turns that entwine the novel’s latter half make sticking it out so much worth it.