In the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, Hunter Shea’s Evil Eternal (Samhain Publishing) is not the first book to portray the world-rending battles fought between the infernal legions and the divine forces for our immortal souls; however, this was certainly among the most interesting that I’ve read. While my Quantum Gnosticism generally leads me to quickly become bored of dualist Christian portrayals of God and Satan, Evil Eternal was able to actually hold my interest with able storytelling and a generally fun read full of vicious demons. Does an otherworldly warrior priest, graphic descriptions of bodies transformed into seething masses of phalli and pus, and an interesting take on the way the Vatican plies its trade stir up those blasphemous innards? Well, read on, then.
Father Michael is the supernatural protagonist who dwells in the dank cellars of the Vatican until his evil nemesis, the great quasi-demon Cain, makes his appearance on Earth to wreak havoc for some vague reason. Powered by the wrath of God and blessed (get it?) with superpowers from the self-same source rather than the mutagenic effects of gamma rays or radioactive waste –as well as a powerful dose of vengeance-driven hatred– the good priest travels around the world fighting against Cain’s wicked works. Like a hidden secret weapon, he is mostly sequestered due to his strange, hulking appearance and divine powers until he’s needed, then it’s very much on. The book doesn’t really make clear exactly why the great lord Satan sends Cain in to do some bad stuff, but, things of this nature rarely do.
After the initial prologue, Evil Eternal takes us to the Vatican in the modern era. A cardinal relays a message to the Pope about a small town in Vermont where the populace is terrorized by the preternatural events at a local family’s farm. The pontiff instantly knows whose work it is, so he dispatches the ecclesiastic colossus there to deal with the malefic being. Father Michael encounters a family transformed into horrific aberrations by their possession and is forced to do battle with them with not only the power of prayer but also crucifix daggers and sundry blessed objects doubling as weapons.
In his greatest adventure yet, little Cain visits the Big City –in this case, it’s New York City– for an awe-inspiring dose of towering skyscrapers and the pressing throngs of humanity. Along the way, we learn some lessons about friendship and trust. Also, we are introduced to the young couple Aimee and Shane, who prove to be more than they appear. They will each play an important role in the infernal melodrama.
The race to stop Cain’s most devious plan yet unveils as Aimee is unwittingly drawn deep into the acid-lactating bosom of evil. It is up to Father Michael and Shane to stop Cain from destroying the frail balance of the world.
Whatever can be said about the fecund subject of God and the Devil, there is no dearth of material from which to read. From the myriad references in the Bible (although just how evil and destructive the Satan of the Old Testament actually is up for debate) to Goethe’s Faust to the modern classics such as Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist by Blatty, literature is rife with books featuring the Devil as the tempter and world-destroyer. The subject is as old as monotheism, and perhaps can even be traced to the various polytheist and animist beliefs. Everyone likes to read about the bad guy with horns who wants ruin it for us and the dirty, shining antiheroes that save the day.
Shea’s Evil Eternal turned out to be a very satisfying read. Christian horror can feel very binary and very boring. Not so with this book. The pace is handled skillfully and all of the action is properly timed; it is a book that reads like a short story. A simple plot is used as an effective frame around which Shea has built a distinct edifice adorned with grotesque embellishments. Before you know it, you’re almost done with the book and you had more fun than you thought you would have.
There are many interesting concepts throughout the book that are novel in the genre of demon-hunting. Secret weapons are unveiled, old artifacts are dispensed with as merely distractory, and in general, the approach to how Father Michael battles the demons is very unique. His battles feel exciting and bloody, full of grotesque details and excruciating pain.
One of the highlights of Evil Eternal is the demons. Once they possess a body, the transformation is very vividly described. Genitals and appendages sprout from unnatural locations while already present ones become ghastly weapons and bodily fluids are excreted with eldritch abandon. Furthermore, once bedemoned, the acts committed by these creatures are excruciatingly, exponentially more and more heinous. This is a really awesome aspect of the book.
Occasionally, however, it somewhat feels as though there is a thesaurus somewhere that has been thumbed through in the writing of Evil Eternal. The adjectives sometimes feel excessive and verbose, somewhat incongruous with the leaner style of the other parts of speech. While I have no problem with a predilection for wordiness, this felt like it didn’t really fit in all that well. In spite of this minor stylistic point, its occurrence was infrequent enough to not interfere with the reading.
The characters tend to feel at times one-dimensional and beyond their roles within the narrative, the protagonists and antagonists are not as developed as I prefer them to be. Evil Eternal benefits immensely from the rapid pace, so the slight flatness of the characters can easily be overlooked. Brevity plays well with Shea’s style, so the addition of details and introspective nuance would be unwieldy and burden the story.
Any fan of horror should read this book. Religion does not automatically denote a simple tale of grace and salvation, devoid of imagination and visceral abominations. This book will carry you along in flowing rivulets of bile and semen like so much rent flesh past the exposition deep into the throbbing climax and beyond. Not everyone is scared of the Devil, or even believes in the brooding prince of darkness and his loathsome assistants; even if you don’t, you can at least have some fun reading a really gruesome and fun story.