by Gabrielle Faust
Dark Regions Press (2010)
A little over a year ago, I blogged about wanting to read this novella, due in part from the giant bestial worm emblazoned on the cover. The idea of a character becoming a demon of regret was also interesting. As a Buffy fan, I really dug the revenge demons that appeared periodically in that show, so I was curious as to how a regret demon might operate. Well, considering the grim and bare-knuckles approach Gabrielle Faust uses, it might not be something I'd ever see in a Buffy episode, but it was definitely an intriguing read.
Marcus' life has fallen apart. He's stuck in a dead-end cubicle job and his mood has been getting darker and darker. One day he snaps--big time. The consequences of that mount up in his mind, coupled with the disintegration of his relationship with his live-in girlfriend, hit a tipping point when a demon enters his life and gives him the means to end his own life. That's just where the story starts, though. It's what happens after that veers into the really dark territory.
Marcus is essentially recruited to become a demon of regret, as part of a hierarchical army of demons that roam the earth preying on humanity. After getting a glimpse of Hell courtesy of the demon who turned him, he starts his journey by revisiting his old apartment where he had ended his life. Despite being dead--and a demon--people seem to have no trouble seeing him most of the time, including people who knew him. That part of the story threw me at first, because one character in particular seemed entirely too complacent with the notion that a dead guy is moving back into his apartment. The inevitable explanation does satisfy, though. As well, his favorite easy chair, one of the only things in his living days that ever gave him any solace acts as a kind of beacon in directing him towards the souls of those susceptible to his influence.
The pace of the book is pretty even, though the exposition felt heavy at times with a lot of dwelling inside Marcus' head as he deals with his own regrets, then his fascinations with others' regrets. All necessary, I suppose, in establishing the mood and character, but it felt heavy at times. The real meat of the story is in his interactions with the demons and the humans he winds up haunting. I appreciated the dark humor sprinkled in as a disgruntled office worker winds up serving in a version of Hell that appears to have even more macabre office politics. The gradual erosion of his humanity after he dies was achieved quite well, too.
Gabrielle has a real knack for showing the human-side of the demon world, and I'm eager to see how she continues Marcus' story, as there is a novel-length sequel out this year called Revenge. Hey, maybe she'll have a twisted take on those revenge demons from Buffy lore, though I think it will hit a more menacing note.