God’s Demon by Wayne Barlowe [An Admiration]

There is a war in hell, an uprising against a devastating dictator who deals out punishment to the left and right. The leader of the uprising is Sargatanas, a fallen angel who remembers better times and wants nothing else than to be quit this place called Hell and go back to the Heaven he ones knew. But no one leaves hell and everyone has their place, both souls and demons have a role to play in Beelzebub’s (or The Fly’s as he is unlovingly called) Hell and he is not about to let anyone off the hook.

The uprising is led by Sargatanas and inspired by Lilith who imprisoned as The Fly’s concubine carves out little statues and sends them out to souls via her maiden. Sargatanas gets a statue as well as the soul Hannibal who later becomes the general of an army of souls who stand beside Sargatanas in the great battle, a thing that’s never been heard of before in Hell. Souls are there to be punished. They are hell’s building blocks, slaves or to be made into anything that is needed, bricks, book or what have you. They never become generals and they never actually fight wars beside their mayor demons.

It’s a great story, an epic work of fiction described in such fantastic details that I often felt the need to look away but something always dragged me back to see what fate awaits the poor souls in hell.

And the ending leaves you breathlessly satisfied. It’s a gory story of love, war and friendship. It’s a hellish description, gory but a beautiful story. It’s quite obvious the writer is great visual artist as well as being a good writer. The story is compelling (I’ve never been interested in reading battle descriptions before but this one just captured me), fantastic and imaginative.

[Spoiler Alert]

There was a little thing that gnawed at me and it has to do with feminism.

It’s a very masculine story (nothing wrong with that) and although the demons don’t care much for gender per-se you get the feeling that the vast majority of acteurs in this feud are male. Except for Lilith who serves as the inspiration for the whole thing, Sargatanas’ Muse if you will but their roles are quite different.

In the end Sargatanas is led back into Heaven because he gave hope to the souls (demon or otherwise) to the inhabitants of hell. Lilith doesn’t think she is worthy of heaven though. From the start she chooses not to follow Sargatanas away from Hell. Instead she sets out to give hope to the periphery who might not have got the message yet. Neither does she join the fight. She is the lady to be rescued.

And although there are hints that she does find a way to shred her role as a victim she still acts as a typical female in distress in this great work.

Diving into gender roles in The God’s Demon would be a great task and possibly have different outcome than I have shown here and typical gender roles serve a purpose in this fiction so I don’t actually hold it against the writer or the work. Lilith is a great character and serves her purpose. But although Sargatanas led the uprising and therefore served to inspire the rest of hell it was essentially Lilith who did the inspiring and perhaps should have been offered the same courtesy as Sargatanas in the end?

But it fits the ideology that Barlowe writes in and it works perfectly. And perhaps there is a story to be told still of Lilith and her wandering adventures. I surely hope so.

I love the story and the writing. I wouldn’t actually have it any other way but the little difference how Lilith is treated as opposed to how Sargatanas is treated did annoy me a little. Surely she had earned the same courtesy from The Throne?

Then again God has never treated the genders the same…

[End of Spoiler]

It’s a great story, a fascinating and fantastic epic adventure set in a hostile environment that I’ve always been endlessly curious about. What’s in your hell? Does it equal Barlowe’s fantastic imagination? Doubtful. This story comes from a fantastic mind and a great writer. Read it! 

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