The Black Tattoo
by Sam Enthoven
Jack Farrell has come to believe that his whole life is one endless streak of bad luck. This belief actually helps him to cope with some serious stuff. No matter how bad things get, he can always put things in perspective, aided by his favorite word: "Typical." You'll be amazed at the kinds of things Jack covers with this word. Tagging along behind Charlie Farnsworth while his better-looking, more charismatic best friend gets all the attention? Typical. Losing out on a meal of his favorite food because Charlie has to tell off his estranged father and storm out of the restaurant? Typical. Serving as the useless sidekick of a teenage superhero in training? Typical?
"Typical" indeed! Soon Jack's unique perspective on life enables him to keep his wits about him when a demon possesses his buddy's body and takes him straight to Hell. Huffing that it's absolutely typical, Jack follows him. He survives a personal audience with the emperor of the underworld. He meets God and isn't impressed. He cools his heels in a dungeon shared with freakishly nasty creatures, one of whom he is slated to meet in a gladiator death-match. He faces gruesome death in a variety of forms. He learns to survive on a demon diet upchucked by talking bats, or Chinj. And he copes with it all remarkably well, considering that he isn't a high-kicking, sword-swinging teen warrior babe like Esme, a demon-battling girl-on-a-mission with whom Jack has hardly any chance.
It's not that Jack is never scared. You would probably feel as he does in this situation:
He was frightened. Terrified, in fact. Large parts of his brain were wibbling and gibbering to themselves, quietly yet with gusto. Single words like Hell and shark played leapfrog in his head, amongst more prosaic ones like Help!, No! or AAAAAAAAAAARRGH!
Though he doesn't have Esme's martial-arts skills, and though he isn't as well-armed or battle-seasoned as the Sons of the Scorpion Flail (a demon-battling paramilitary group), Jack travels to Hell not once but twice, determined to save his friend from making the biggest mistake in all eternity. And amazingly, for all his uselessness in battle, Jack turns out to be instrumental in saving the universe. Which is just typical, wouldn't you say?
Obviously, I'm going to lay on another "occult content advisory" here. The magic in this book includes spells to bind demons. People get in heaps of trouble by making bargains with demons. One particular demon excels at taking control of people. And woven into this story is a theology that, again, is best described in its own words:
"All our religions are false," Felix said... "There's no benevolent Creator watching over us all. There's no divine justice, no grand master plan. There's just this...being that made the universe and has been asleep ever since. The demons call it the Dragon."
In spite of its unorthodox theology the book can be enjoyed on its own terms, even by orthodox believers, as a work of pure fantasy. But I mention this in case such concepts may strain your capacity for "willing suspension of disbelief." Bear it in mind while deciding whether you will enjoy this quirky, action-packed story and the often breathtaking scope of its imagery.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 14+
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