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The Hidden Language of Demons
L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims
Prime Books, 108 pages

The Hidden Language of Demons
L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims
Len Maynard (born in 1953), and Mick Sims (born in 1952) have been friends since school where they met for the first time in 1964. Len Maynard now lives in Norton, Hertfordshire, and works as a precious stone dealer/lapidary in the jewellery trade in London. Mick Sims is a senior bank manager. They began writing supernatural stories in 1972 and their first published story was in 1974. A recent venture has been publishing chapbooks under the imprints Enigmatic Press and Maynard Sims Productions.
ISFDB Bibliography: L.H. Maynard
ISFDB Bibliography: M.P.N. Sims
SF Site Interview: L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims
SF Site Review: Darkness Rising

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Always on the lookout for insight into literature, this reviewer has a love/hate relationship with blurbs: how many actually tell you something? This time the most interesting words come not from blurbees -- mostly unenlightening apart from Maynard and Sims' mastery of craft -- but from the publisher himself:

"This is not the Maynard & Sims you may be familiar with. This is a modern nightmare of riotous colour, and white-knuckle action. This is Poe in his Sgt Pepper period. This is Picasso prose. This is a 33,000-word novella that sucks you in from the word go and doesn't release you even after you've hyperventilated and shouted for help. This is the language they speak just outside the parameters of normality. These are the hidden messages from Hell."
Sure it sounds like your typical overblown advertising propaganda; but once you read the book, you discover the insights the publisher has subtly imparted about the work.

Regrettably, the reviewer is not overly familiar with earlier work of Maynard and Sims to comment on "This is not the Maynard & Sims you may be familiar with;" however Infinity Online has basic author information, excerpts from the novella "Moths", and the complete story of "An Office in the Gray's Inn Road" -- the latter two are available in their second collection Echoes of Darkness. A more recent story "Beware the Beckoning Stranger", appeared in taking third prize in their horror contest of 2000 -- a tale of an unusual vampirism a tale in the usual Maynard and Sims manner where the conceit reigns supreme.

"Moths," written only four years ago, does intrigue and seems to share a similar psychedelic imagery (and received an honorable mention in Datlow and Windling's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror). The ghost story (novelette or nearly novelette depending on your definition), "An Office in the Gray's Inn Road," focuses far more on conjuring atmosphere and horror than developing character although the characters are well characterized with occasional nice touches:

"By lunchtime she was sitting at home, numb with shock, as a young policeman, a dab of shaving-foam behind his ear, told her there had been a car accident and Hugh had been killed. There was no one else in the car and no other vehicles were involved. It appeared he had lost control of the car on a bend, perhaps he had fallen asleep at the wheel for a few seconds. The occurrence was apparently quite common. Before he left she wiped the shaving foam away with her finger."
In one aspect, if only for variety's sake, Jason Gould's review in Infinity Online correctly addresses that these works ought "to have had a slightly grittier edge; to have... an ounce more rawness in each character, rather than the polite Englishness with which they behaved, even at times of extreme stress." If this is the criticism Maynard and Sims responded to, they've certainly delivered the goods with The Hidden Language of Demons.

"This is a modern nightmare of riotous colour, and white-knuckle action" conveys the vivid imagery and gripping action sequences. "This is Poe in his Sgt Pepper period" may miss the mark on Poe in particular but for horror, yes, it's psychedelic: "The ceiling cracked open and two hugely bloated black lips protruded, swollen and ugly; a snack tongue flicked out and he dived to the floor to avoid it." If "This is Picasso prose" refers to his blue period, then the swimmingly blue demon eyes fit; if to his cubist period, then their unusual approach to the omniscience narrator certainly applies (more on this later). "This is a 33,000-word novella that sucks you in from the word go and doesn't release you even after you've hyperventilated and shouted for help" is obviously hyperbole, but, minus the first scene, it does start with a bang. Unless someone out there speaks Demonic and can attest otherwise, we'll just have to take their word for "This is the language they speak just outside the parameters of normality" and "These are the hidden messages from Hell;" that is, unless if you play the novella backwards, you get a personal message from Satan; or if you add up every sixth letter...

The U.S. government is at it again. This time, they've tapped into human paranormal powers -- only they don't know what they've tapped into. A power greater and darker than any paranormal has ever experienced has awakened in the mind of Michael Moreland, the evil third of three paranormal brothers who haven't spoken in years. As the paranormals and their loved ones fall like flies to the insecticide mind of Michael, brothers Robert and Frank Moreland have to grapple with this demonic presence and banish it before it destroys them. Alone, the brothers could not face the strength of the demon mind, so Frank sends out a distress call to paranormals everywhere to gather at a little known government compound in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with Maynard and Sims must realize that their promise is not intellectual fodder but a well-written entertainment, satisfaction guaranteed. The "cubist" point of view mentioned above is problematic. On the one hand, it takes a huge chance. Few attempt to write in an omniscient narrator these days. Its presence is refreshing. It's also nice and necessary to this story to represent every facet of the demon mind's horror. The other hand offers a mind-boggling cast of characters. The reader will have to trust his reading in the hands of two masters of the horror trade. Since the story focuses on horror and not character development, one cannot question whether the many different points of view are necessary because, as a development of horror, they are.

What one can wish and hope for are sequels. The mystery and purpose of the government's involvement remains just that. And the relationship of the brothers, how Michael dipped into the demon arts, and the enigmatic ending -- "He believed they were now completely alone" -- are yet to be revealed as well. Now's the time to hyperventilate and shout to the authors for help. Demand more.

Copyright © 2002 Trent Walters

Trent Walters' work has appeared or will appear in The Distillery, Fantastical Visions, Full Unit Hookup, Futures, Glyph, Harpweaver, Nebo, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Speculon, Spires, Vacancy, The Zone and blah blah blah. He has interviewed for, Speculon and the Nebraska Center for Writers. More of his reviews can be found here. When he's not studying medicine, he can be seen coaching Notre Dame (formerly with the Minnesota Vikings as an assistant coach), or writing masterpieces of journalistic advertising, or making guest appearances in a novel by E. Lynn Harris. All other rumored Web appearances are lies.

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