By: Mark Cain
Narrated by: Michael Gilboe
GoodReads Summary: In the wacky final volume of the Circles in Hell series, Steve Minion attends Beast Barracks, where he learns both the arcane and mundane arts of being a servant of the Devil. Strength, speed and endurance are all part of a demon’s physical makeup, but he must be taught to be sneaky, cruel and ruthless… and of course to ignore personal hygiene.
As Steve begins work as a full-fledged bad guy, he must confront the inevitable: demons exist to torment the damned, and Hell’s former handyman-in-chief doesn’t seem to have the stomach for the work.
Still, there’s no alternative for our hero. Once a demon, always a demon, as the saying goes. Steve’s stuck in his new role, but really, what good to anyone is a reluctant demon?
The Reluctant Demon is the fourth volume in the fantasy comedy series, Circles in Hell. It has been compared to other works of “Hell Fiction” including The Screwtape Letters and Good Omens and to the paranormal humor of Tom Holt, Christopher Moore and Douglas Adams.
(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)
Oh, my. Listening to the second installment of this series (A Cold Day in Hell), I predicted a drop in interest after a few more windows into this uber-developed world. You know, like the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. But even with Mr. Anthony, it took about ten books for my adolescent mind to get bored by the whole thing.
So I’ve listened to four of Mr. Cain’s visions of Hell. I truly thought this beautifully envisioned world would suffer after we spent some time rolling around in this muck of an afterlife. Even though I’ve enjoyed the hell out of all three previous tales (pun intended), I even looked for a drop in writing quality, descriptions, unique turns of phrase…even a lessening of tiny little bombs of surprise and appreciation for vividly imagined characters.
But, I do believe I was wrong. And I am so glad to admit this mistake. Even though Mr. Cain drops us into Chaos, we have to remember that this version of the afterlife does play by some hard and fast rules. Yet, when we live inside Minion’s head for a while, just like him, we tend to forget all of those laws when day-to-day survival focuses on the tiny rules, the ones that Mr. Cain’s version of Hell compels its residents to follow to avoid misery. (Even though, this is hell after all and misery is just a part of it.)
I really do not like spoilers in reviews and avoid them as the populace of Hell avoids saying any words of Grace, so…
All I’m going to say is that Mr. Cain does a fantastic job of distracting the reader with the interesting minutiae of what it is like to survive in this Hell to the point that what should be a predictable end comes as a surprise where I smack my forehead saying, “Damn it, I should have SEEN that! Hell, Minion should have SEEN that one.”
Sometimes I believe a book would be just as good in either written or audible format. Sometimes I’m actually neutral in preference.
This is not one of those times. I believe that audible is the best format for these trips into the underworld. Mr. Gilboe has the perfect voice to transmit the oddities of Hell, a friendly voice keeping you company through a normal day of mundaneness, a beautiful distraction that pulls images from the imagination with little effort. Truly, there should be no other way to trip down Hell’s escalator than with Mr. Gilboe’s voice as an accompaniment. However, if we’re truly envisioning this version of Hell, it would not welcome us with Mr. Gilboe. The welcome message would be read by Gilbert Godfrey. But I hear he has a different position down there.