Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Demon Squad: Armageddon Bound

Under almost any circumstances just by looking at the cover, I would have passed on Armageddon Bound.  Just look at that cover.  Ok, the cover isn't terrible, but the scantily clad girl whose boobs look like a bob-omb from Super Mario is pretty damn off-putting. It's one of those covers that made me feel self conscious whenever I was reading the book in public.

Boy am I glad I listened to my mom when she told me not to judge a book by it's cover...I'm also glad for all the solid reviews for this book kicking around the internet.  Those two elements helped me keep my preconceived notions in check. Oh, and the author, Tim Marquitz, promised there'd be a few metal references throughout the book...

Strong reviews from trusted sources? Metal music mixing with Fantasy?  Yeah, I'm in.

In Armageddon Bound, Frank Trigg, a human/devil hybrid, finds himself out gunned and undermanned on the front lines of an epic battle between pro and anti-Armageddon forces. In a godless and Satan-less world,  Frank is fighting on the anti-Armageddon side, along with his fellow members of DRAC, an organization of wizards, telepaths and other supernaturals, who must do what they can to prevent one of Lucifer's lieutenants from fulfilling a diabolical plan that would truly fuck over humanity once and for all.

The first thing I noticed about Armageddon Bound is that it's not like any other fantasy novels out there.  While many fantasies these days strive for that dark and gritty feel and often come up short, Marquitz achieves this feel in the opening paragraph and carries it out throughout the course of the book.  In many ways, the tone of Armageddon Bound reminded me of a hard-boiled crime story.

The dark tone of the novel is primarily achieved through the voice of the narrator Frank Trigg.  Trigg is not exactly your typical hero.  While most heroes run around vanquishing bad-guys, slaying monsters and deflowering virgins, Trigg spends most of his time getting beat down by his enemies, and lusting after his angelic cousin.  Not exactly the first guy I'd pick to save humanity.  However, there's no quit in Frank Trigg, and no matter how shitty the situation, he's gonna give it his all.  Trigg's never say die attitude, political incorrectness, and horn-dog rating that is hovering somewhere between College Frat Dude, and Sketchy Uncle, somehow all come together to make one hilarious and strangely endearing character.  Without a doubt, Trigg is one unforgettable anti-hero.

While the characters and narrative voice were the strongest parts of Armageddon Bound, the plot was no slouch either.  Like most first-person perspective stories, the plot is linear, which Marquitz uses to his advantage by continuously shoving the action down your throat.  Like any great metal show, the action is cranked up to eleven from the get-go and there is little to no let-up until the epic finale.

While the characters, and plot were both strong points, I felt the world building was on the weaker side of awesome.  It's not that Marquitz didn't create an interesting world where demons, angels, vampires, and dark magic can all co-exist, he just felt like that world wasn't populated by anyone other than the characters on the page.

For the most part, the book takes place in a city which, from what I could tell, was located somewhere in the South West of the United States.  However, there were many scenes where epic battles occurred, car chases ensued, and plenty of collateral damage, wreckage and ruin was laid down.  However, there never seemed to be regular people fleeing the carnage for their lives, or police or nosy neighbors investigating why the roof got blown off Frank Trigg's house.  There were times when the world felt completely devoid of any life aside from the characters of the story, which made it hard to care about the "regular people" who would be unwitting victims should Frank and his buddies fail to stop Armageddon.  This element didn't cause too much of a hang up for me, but it did take away from the tension a bit.

I am happy to report there there were metal references aplenty in Armageddon Bound.  Though there was a great and timely reference to Iron Maiden's Die with Your Boots On, my favorite metal moments involved Trigg's battles with the black metal trio.  There's just something hilarious about black metal dudes getting the shit kicked out of them.

I'm not so sure Armageddon Bound is a book for everyone, but there was plenty for me to like in this novel.  Brutal and dark with an uncompromising flair, this is a book that is less like a fine wine and more like a shot of mid-shelf whiskey; quickly ingested, delivering an enjoyable and satisfying taste, while leaving the consumer with a thirst for more.  With the sequel Resurrection waiting on my shelf, it is only a matter of time before I refill my glass.



Seak (Bryce L.) said...

So glad you liked it. I guess I knew you would, with that combination it was pretty much a slam dunk. :)

Bastard said...

That's a great review, one of the best I've seen really of the book. I should say, some of your complaints are still present on Resurrection, but it's better written. I've read some of At the Gates, and the "population" thing gets corrected to a good degree in that installment. So hopefully that will improve the experience for you. I actually had a similar complaint to that aspect.

Ryan said...

@Seak- yeah, it had a lot of elements to it that make me an almost ideal reader for the series.

@Bastard- Thanks for the compliment! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the review. I'm also interested to see that you had similar hang ups with the "population thing". I'm glad to hear Resurrection is an improvement. I'm looking forward to it.

Bastard said...

I really give a pass to many of the shortcomings, mainly because it really feels like a unique urban fantasy read to me. And I've been reading a lot of UF, so what this series brings is very much welcomed to me.

And I don't know, I've always rooted for authors in small publishers, who don't have the editing help and resources that other authors have at their disposal, and I've found it kinda of a fun journey seeing as his writing has developed, etc.

Ryan said...

@Bastard- I only read Urban Fantasy here and there, so I can't really speak on it feeling unique compared to other works in the sub-genre; but to me, Marquitz achieved a hard boiled-noir feel that I often find in crime novels and crime comics which was a real nice touch.

I typically try to root for every fantasist and hope that they do well, but I agree with your sentiments about rooting for the small press "under-dog" too. Tim is a nice guy, and a great writer and he deserves wider publication and notoriety.