Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Demon Inside

The Demon Inside:
The Zone War, Book 1
by Terry Cloutier

(iUniverse – Indigo / 0-595-46720-2 / 978-0-595-46720-4 / January 2008 / 402 pages / $22.95 paperback / $20.65 Amazon / $1.56 Kindle)

Reviewed by Ron Baxley for PODBRAM

Fantasy and science fiction authors create works of dual escapism at times, putting characters within virtual snow globes that reside in still more fantastical landscapes. Not only is our speculative genre escapist, but, within that escapism, characters themselves escape into sub-worlds outside the main setting. Cloutier has manufactured an ingenious dual escapism that could only happen if one took The Boy Who Runs from Wolves, a character who only exists in the head of an abused young man and later his older self, from the novel and film Mystic River, a real world of the psychological thriller, and transported him from the world within his head to a fictional Tolkein landscape. Edward, his creative, suffering main character, has escaped into a fantasy world but has brought alter egos and his demons with him.

In fact, child psychologists often dictate that when a child has been through a traumatic experience that he or she will create a fantasy world to escape the trauma. Cloutier’s main character, Edward, did just that as a child, when he was much like The Boy Who Runs from Wolves, an abused young man, but the fantasy world that he created as a child will eventually engulf him as an adult.

The child’s fantasy world becomes a literal yet fantastic world called The Zone in which one can escape, continuing with the themes of realities within realities. What makes Cloutier’s work different, a little more novel than The Neverending Story, for example, is that he makes his main character, Edward, have his own dark half ala Stephen King.

Not only has Cloutier created a Tolkein landscape with blind witches, wizards, and warriors plucked straight out of the Middle Ages or, in this case, Middle Earth, he has incorporated a Thomas Harris-like gritty reality of a serial killer. His serial killer, David Wayne Diamond, may not be the most original incarnation of what has become a stock character, but Cloutier originates an amalgam of The Dark Half, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Gunslinger series. We soon realize that Eddie has his own Dark Half. As many abused people do, he has internalized his abuser, David Wayne Diamond. This horrifying monstrosity of a human being cut Eddie up as a child and left him for dead and now the young man cannot get him out of his head, cannot get him out of the worlds that he creates. The title even alludes to the antagonist’s, Brady’s, position within the narrative. He is The Demon Inside.

How Eddie exorcises his demon is, as many authors do, through fiction, but do authors really get rid of their demons when they write? Authors may state that they are getting rid of their demons, but are they fully? These and other probing philosophical questions abound as the author blurs the line between reality and fantasy and makes one ponder the thin line between creativity and insanity.

He does an incredibly original job of blurring the line between genres as well, doing one of the better cross-genre pieces I have read in a while. Nevertheless, some of his concepts deserve far more original labels. The Empire, the name of the kingdom Diamond’s alter-ego is trying to create, has been overdone by George Lucas, and The Zone is too reminiscent of The Twilight Zone or the cliché of somebody being “in the zone”. Nevertheless, clichés can serve as the compost heaps from which great gardens can grow.

Cloutier’s novel is a great garden indeed, for it is manicured with minimal grammar and spelling errors, a real plus for a self-published work. Also, the garden becomes more evidently a jungle as you explore its confines. One begins to realize that the pursuit of the dark serial killer memory within will take Edward through many books, and I know that this author will sustain this pursuit with suspense, originality, and gusto. This great garden, indeed, grows within a snow globe, a world within a world, only accessible through the comatose mind of the main character, Edward, and through the author’s writing. As I did, marvel at the fantastic world Cloutier has created and be equally as stunned by the sinister vines that twist there.

Editor’s Note: The first edition of The Demon Inside was published by BookSurge (1-419-64144-1 / 978-1-419-64144-2 / July 2006 / 630 pages / $23.99 paperback).

See Also: Terry Cloutier's Website
Terry Cloutier's Authors Den Page
The Demon Inside, Book 2

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