Richard Finney, D. L. Snell
Trade Paper, 196 pages, $9.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
A main character in the horror novel Demon Days is an artist; a painter. The authors of the book, to draw an analogy, are sketchers. Richard Finney and D. L. Snell have traced the outlines of a possibly transfixing tale; but don’t manage to give enough form, color, or texture to the narrative. It seems unfinished: A design, rather than a polished work of art. There is a quality about it that comes across as a pitch for a screenplay; almost as though the novel format is merely a springboard for the movie version. Needless, to say: It is set up for a sequel.
The plot concept is intriguing: Some people who suffer a near death experience (N.D.E.) believe they have interacted with a divine being. Each revived person acquires an unusually smooth and taut face; a visionary’s visage that could be construed as cosmic cosmetic surgery. Because this is a horror story, what would appear to be positives (spiritual enlightenment, no lines or wrinkles) must turn out to be nasty negatives. That which is regarded as celestial is far more bestial: Evil incarnate reigning on earth. Defending humanity from the emissaries of the damned are Father Olsen, a blind priest, and journalist Sandy Travis. Sandy’s fiancé is one of those altered by N.D.E. His change in attitude and demeanor prompts her to frequently fidget with her engagement ring. Except, on page 49, it becomes a wedding ring; it does revert back to engagement status later. This is a minor inconsistency. Defining the newswoman’s anxiety through short hand, however, is a major issue. It is symptomatic of the cursory characterization that is present through the novel.
Some scenes do create a frisson of horror: Multiple sightings of the same pair of look-alike emergency medical technicians are extremely unsettling. The olfactory elements also work well; smells that permeate surroundings and people deliver suggestive sensory scares. Confrontations in a church are satisfactorily sinister.
Authors Richard Finney and D.L. Snell opt for a cliffhanger ending as a means to entice the reader into the sequel, which is entitled Demon Days: Angel of Light. It will be interesting to see if the follow up novel has more fleshed out characters, and if the perfunctory feel of much of the writing dissipates. There is a potentially gripping story in Demon Days. The idea, however, required more cultivation and elaboration to fulfill its promise.