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Infernal Angel
Edward Lee
Cemetery Dance, 302 pages

Infernal Angel
Edward Lee
Edward Lee was born in 1957, and was raised in Bowie, Maryland. He has sold more than 15 novels and continues to work as a freelance writer. His first novel, written under the pen name Philip Straker, was titled Night Bait. For 15 years, he worked as a night watchman at a retirement community and wrote by day. He now lives in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'Hell is a city. It stretches, literally, without end -- a labyrinth of smoke and waking nightmare. Just as endlessly, sewer grates belch flame from the sulphur fires that have raged beneath the streets for millennia. Clock towers spire in every district, by public law, but their faces have no hands; time is not measured here in seconds or hours but in atrocity and despair.'
Edward Lee is an author whose work is a sub-genre all on its own. Uber horror, might be an appropriate term. He doesn't so much nail readers attention to the page, as crucify it. But what separates him from so many other writers of gratuitous blood and guts fiction, is the intelligence with which he presents his stories. Infernal Angel is a chip off the bloody chopping block, which begins in a suburb of Mephistopolis, where a starving Edward Teller is chowing down on the legs of a recently deceased prostitute. But this is merely a glimpse into what can be expected by those who go to Hell.

The real story concerns a 22 year-old mental patient named Cassie Heydon. She sees dead people, and talks to them about Hell. As the story opens, Cassie is being held in a secure psychiatric unit, on the suspicion that she burned down her family home, with her father trapped inside. The truth, is that she is an incredibly rare individual, known as an Etheress. That is, she is a mortal with the power to use Deadpasses; hidden doorways which lead to and from Hell. The reason why Etheresses are so rare, is that only a virgin identical twin, who unsuccessfully attempted suicide, but whose twin was also virginal and succeeded in taking his or her own life, can be one. Cassie's motivation is to search Hell, or Mephistopolis as it is properly named, and somehow free her sister.

When in Mephistopolis, her special powers are second only to Satan. However, the Morning Star, otherwise known as Lucifer, is well aware of Cassie, and is intent on using her to further his own ambitions, primarily moving Hell to Earth. Lucifer can already accomplish this in small sections, using an ingenious and appalling mass murder machine called the Atrocidome. God, as usual, prefers a hands-off approach, but has sent Cassie some help in the form of Angelese, a guardian angel of dubious sanity. In the other corner, is a stereotypical virgin geek called Walter Grey. He is an Etherean, the male equivalent to Cassie, and is all too easily led astray.

What follows is a juicy mixture of evil invention, coal dark humour and restraint. Where others would drench their prose in gore, Lee shocks the mind's eye, then leaves his readers to suffer a slow burn, as the often gruesome images percolate the imagination. The lack of gratuitous depiction makes scenes all the more potent when they are taken to their logical conclusion. Helping things along are frequent injections of wicked mirth, such as the J. Edgar Hoover Building exists in both the Living World and Mephistopolis, and Hell's condoms leaking is due to factory made perforations! Lee clearly doesn't have any time for the PC brigade, and cares even less if he offends true believers. As the story makes its literally tortuous progress, we find evidence of possible psychosis in the mind of God.

Angels such as Angelese are required to have their wings amputated, as a sign of their devotion, and not content with that, Yahweh attaches something called an Umbra-Specter to their shadows. This is a metaphysical creature whose sole purpose is to torture the angel, at any time she chooses to break the Rules. The Rules include things like giving Cassie Heydon the benefit of insider information which would enable her to do God's will.

On the other side of the fence, Lee depicts Lucifer as a pathological liar, who is himself a victim of his yearning to be loved by God. The one being in the universe who cannot be forced to love him. The twin sides of the theological coin are constantly twisted in a fast moving plot which slithers like a snake then spits poison. Yet, in a strange and subtle way bordering on genius, what happens to Cassie and Walter, the virgins who walk through Hell, encourages readers to embrace a more Christian lifestyle, as opposed to the hedonistic alternative. Without ever becoming preachy, Lee imagineers an exposé of human nature, coupled with a vision of Hell made real which stays in the mind long after the last page has been turned.

Copyright © 2004 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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