In an instant, a man finds himself in the pit of Hell with no memory of who he is, how he died, or how he came to be there. Lucifer etches a number into his forehead cryptically marking him for all to see, and he eventually becomes know to everyone as Slave. Slave toils away in the torment of the abyss where time no longer has meaning, until he is joined by a mysterious man who he dubs Stranger. Stranger also bears the numbered markings on his head and behaves far differently than anyone else whom Slave has met thus far. Stranger stirs things up and eventually leads Slave on a long journey through the all the pits of Hell, where they meet many real dead people, all of whom know what the markings on Slave's forehead mean, and all of whom seem to want to use him for their own designs. Slave perseveres through many trials, never quite sure who he can trust, all in an attempt to discover the meaning of the numbers which will lead to his true identity and purpose.
Lucifer and Lacious found it's way to my desk for review at the request of the author, and I have to admit that it is quite a departure from my typical reading material. I also approached it with a bit of trepidation because everywhere I looked, the book is classified as horror. Being a self-described wimp, I avoid scary movies and don't really care much for scary books either. While Lucifer and Lacious certainly had plenty of gruesome moments, a few of which grossed me out a bit, I cannot say that I ever found it to be frightening. If it was indeed the author's intent to scare the reader, then he may have failed in his mission, if a coward like me didn't get freaked out.:-) In fact, the definition of horror fiction according to Wikipedia is: "fiction in any medium intended to scare, unsettle, or horrify the audience." Lucifer and Lacious could certainly be a bit unsettling at times, but the further I read, the more I realized that it really seemed more like fantasy. I couldn't quite put my finger on what kind though, as it didn't really resemble any of the numerous fantasy stories housed on my husband's bookshelves. After a bit more research though, I came across what, in my opinion, is the perfect classification for this book, Bangsian fantasy. Wikipedia definition: "the school of fantasy writing that sets the plot wholly or partially in the afterlife." Bingo! Mystery finally solved!
Yes, I know that this whole exercise probably makes me seem a little OCD, and when it comes to book categories, series, etc., I freely admit that I am. There was a purpose to all of this though, and that was to prove that Lucifer and Lacious could appeal to a wider audience that just those interested in the horror genre. In fact, it embodies a wide variety of elements. Sometimes it reminded me of the stories of the underworld and afterlife found in mythology, and with its occasional Biblical references and Slave's travels through the different levels of Hell, it at times was reminiscent of Dante's Inferno, or some other allegory. The inclusion of real dead people in Hell, which I thought was a very creative touch, gave the story just a hint of John Kendrick Bangs Associated Shades series, in which he explored the afterlives of famous people. There was also an aspect of mystery and suspense threaded throughout in the form of Slave trying to discover his true identity and purpose, as well as the meaning of the numbers which Lucifer had etched into his forehead upon his arrival in Hell. Additionally, there were a number of plot twists and turns, with Slave never quite knowing who he could trust which kept me guessing as well. All the various literary ingredients came together to create a different sort of read that I found to be rather intriguing even though it is admittedly, probably not a book I would have picked up on my own.
The first ¾ of the book move at a steady pace with the reader slowly being fed the pieces of the puzzle that is Slave's life and purpose. This part held my interest quite well. Then the final quarter of the book seemed a little rushed and not as orderly, with lots of twists being thrown at the reader very quickly, which at times left me feeling a bit confused. After finishing the book and having some time to ponder it, I think I finally figured out most of these events, but it would have been nice if it had been a little clearer as I was reading. In the end, everything was wrapped up a little too neatly, and some weightier matters and questions I had were not addressed or answered quite to my satisfaction. For example, I don't think that Slave ever found the seventh pit even though for a large part of the narrative, doing so seemed quite important. Also, what Slave's death did not involve was explained, but nothing else about it was, which was a little disappointing to me. There is one slightly vague note in the last chapter that left me wondering if the author was merely trying to show that Slave (known by his real name by that point) had proven his worth or if there might be more stories to come about this character. Either way though, the ending was for the most part, what I expected.
There were both upsides and downsides to Lucifer and Lacious. On the downside, I found certain parts of the composition, such as sentence structure, grammar, and word choices to be rather amateurish. There was also some word repetition which could have benefited from a thesaurus. I imagine better editing probably would have caught many of these mistakes. At 108 pages, Lucifer and Lacious is a very short book that would really be classified as a novella, but its trade paperback size and smaller than normal font extended the reading experience a little longer than I expected. Mr. Lehosit has a very minimalistic writing style, but in spite of being someone who usually prefers more details in my stories, it still worked for me most of the time. On the upside, I thought this tale, exhibited a great deal of creativity and imagination. In particular, his way of depicting the various tortures of Hell were quite ingenious, in my opinion. In short, I think that fans of darker fantasy and supernatural tales involving demons and angels, as well as horror fans, should find this to be a worthwhile read. I know I did, and I can't even count myself as a true fan of any of those genres. I am happy though, to have had the opportunity to read something out of the ordinary. With a little more attention and polish to his writing form and style, I can see Mr. Lehosit's imagination taking him places in the future.
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