Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review: Up Jumps The Devil

Up Jumps The Devil
Michael Poore

At least since Milton's Paradise Lost, readers have been fascinated by the literary figure of Satan. Perhaps it's because we identify with his flaws, or because we just find villains more interesting than the good guys, but readers can't get enough of this fallen angel. Like vampires or zombies, every few years, someone comes along and puts a new spin on his backstory and abilities. In Up Jumps The Devil, Michael Poore takes his turn.

The novel begins with Satan's new a reality show host. He tempts humans into terrible acts with prize money. (Surely, a commentary on the state of television today.) Satan has a hot girlfriend, a hit series, and seems to be enjoying life to the fullest. Suddenly, a hail of bullets are plunged into his wooden chest, and he is rushed to the hospital. Is this the end of Old Scratch?

From here, the novel is told through a series of flashbacks...and flash forwards. The Devil's long life span opens the entirety of human history for him to weave himself in and out of. He spends time as a Native American before the birth of the new country. He lives in Egypt as an architect. He even takes up residence in Rome. However, it is his time with a 1960's rock band that forms the bulk of the story.

As they travel across country from one gig to another, Dan Paul's band is stricken with his sudden death. A guitar virtuoso, his death resoundingly signals the end of their career. That is, unless they can get the Devil to help them. Over the next 40 years or so, he has a guiding hand on their various undertakings. Some remain musicians, others move into insurance. Another forms a cryogenics company. In each case, The Devil involves himself to both his and the band members' success and detriment.

Up Jumps The Devil is a fun novel, full of wit and satire. Reminiscent of a Carl Hiaasen story, the book weaves the absurd with true drama. The Devil is presented as a much more human character who happens to have some differences with God, rather than the Master of All Evil. He is a rebel, looking for his own way. His magic powers sometimes help him, but mainly end up causing his own failures.

The story is engaging, and the author's style is very crisp and clean. There is enough description for you to clearly see the characters and setting, however it is the plot that drives the novel. The characters range from the ridiculous to the tragic, though each is rounded and intriguing.

There is a love story that underlays the book. The Devil spends his years on Earth pining for his lost love. She occasionally joins him, though is always pulled back to Heaven by disappointment in the human form. For the most part, this is an interesting idea. Towards the end of the novel, however, it starts to become a little repetitive.

The ending is pretty apparent early on. Though it didn't really lessen my enjoyment of the book, I wish the author could have obscured the surprise a little more so that it would have been less obvious.

Overall, Up Jumps The Devil is a solid, entertaining novel. It points towards a, hopefully, long career for Poore. I look forward to reading his next piece.


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