Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-536-6
Fantasy Romance, 2016
Hell is not a fiery pit of eternal torment in the setting of Marie Sexton’s Damned If You Do. No, it’s worse – it’s a large corporation office drowning in endless paperwork, perpetual red tape, incessant office politics, lack of benefits and pay, and plenty of tyrannical rules. Abbadon, a devil, is one of the many drones in this place, and he is currently on probation because he has failed to meet his soul quota for the third month in a row. If he doesn’t meet the quota this month, it’s demotion time.
“How bad can a demotion be?” Abaddon asked. “I mean, at least it’d be a change of scenery, and they save all the nasty stuff for dire sins, right? Murder, rape, child abuse -”
“You won’t spend an eternity being drowned in the River Styx -” the thought of drowning always made Abaddon shudder, but Baphomet went on as if he hadn’t noticed, “- but there are still plenty of things worse than soul acquisition. There’s laying asphalt around the Lake of Fire, hauling rocks out of the Great Abyss, poop-scooping for the Hounds of Hell, selling flashlights without batteries in the Outer Darkness. And those are just the jobs in the underworld. There are plenty of places they could send you up top too. Mowing lawns in Louisiana in mid-August, cleaning hotel rooms in Vegas, emptying bedpans in a celebrity rehab facility in Hollywood. There’s retail work, fast food franchises, lunchroom duty, janitorial work -”
Still, Abbadon has a plan. He’d head over to the Bible Belt – where else could one find plenty of sinners whose souls are ripe for the plucking? – and corrupt some innocent soul. The corruption of a very pure soul would allow him to meet his quota several months over, and how hard can it be, anyway, to corrupt an innocent twit?
Well, there’s Seth – 22, blind, cute, with the tendency to play the violin alone in the woods, spew Bible lines and mix them up, and reject every attempt by Abbadon to get him to bargain away his soul. Trying to get to Seth may end up with Abbadon being got instead, if you know what I mean.
This is a humorous story. There is a chapter titled Cock Blocked by Darth Vader, which should tell you all you need to know about the tone of this one. I personally find it fun and frivolous, although I wish the author has pushed the camp level up a little. The story has one foot firmly on the ground, and there is some effort to present a well-drawn romance. I appreciate the latter, but that is also my issue with this one: the author wants to keep the story still somewhat grounded, but it’s hard to buy the romance.
Abbadon is a senior drone in Hell, and he has been doing what he does for a long time now… and yet, he meets a cute blind boy and all of a sudden, he gets his moral epiphany? There is nothing special about Seth, other than he probably looks like a Bel Ami twink, so I have a hard time buying that he can affect a devil that much. On the other hand, if the author had just gone crazy and far out, such as by making Seth some kind of prophet or divine messenger, or giving him some kind of outrageous sexual mojo that can bring divine or fallen beings onto their knees, et cetera, this story may end up being so ridiculous that it makes perfect sense in a crazy kind of way. As it is, I just don’t buy this one wholesale.
Still, Damned If You Do is a pleasant kind of diversion, so it’s not so bad.