Warning! If you get scared by multiple eviscerations, beheadings, slicings, dicings, and other frankly creative murders by somewhat supernatural beings and / or deranged humans, you may not like this book!
Well! Now that the warning is out of the way, let’s talk about a VERY thrilling read. Dead Religion is told from two perspectives. The first is set in the past and chronicles the freaky-as-heck events leading up to the destruction of a big hotel in Mexico City, ostensibly by the character we are following, Alex. The second perspective is in the present, where an American FBI agent is trying to figure out what happened to make the hotel blow up, and whether Alex (who is also American) is to blame. He has to find out what happened before the Mexican authorities do.
Already, as a reader, that premise had me DESPERATE to find out what happened to Alex. I mean, did he blow up the hotel, or what? Why would he do that? Does that mean he’s going to be dead at the end of the book? Am I reading about the last days of a crazy person, or about the escape of a non-crazy person from an evil supernatural being? And (unrelatedly) is his being bald a fashion statement?
At the same time, watching Alex fight the Evil Supernatural Possibly-Green God of Destruction as It becomes more and more powerful is painful, because we know that Alex loses. He has to, right? Because otherwise, why would the hotel blow up? I mean, Alex is a nice guy! He wouldn’t blow a hotel up! The Bad Green Guy does that, right?
(Desperately turns on Kindle and starts reading again, even in social situations that require a person NOT to be reading, especially if that person is reading something that causes them to make lots of noises and loud comments)
And what IS this terribly evil dream-inhabiting, long scary teeth having, eye-of-sauron typed bad guy, anyways? (I keep saying guy, but I’m pretty sure it’s genderless. As a side note.) Well, as it turns out, It is NOT what I expected. Which was very cool. Unlike so many other thrillers that end up actually being about vampires or mass-murderers or what-not, this was something totally unexpected and unique.
Oddly enough, despite my delicate nature, I didn’t realize how scary this book was until about a week after I finished reading it, when I had a nightmare about it. I woke up and thought, “Well holy hell. That is one scary premise”. In spite of that, I found it to be an enjoyable read. There were some very graphic descriptions of violent deaths, but I was so desperate to find out what happened next that I hardly noticed.
One drawback of all of that violence, increasing in wildness and frequency as the book went on, is that it was hard to top. At some point, I became almost desensitized to it as a reader. That made the climax less… climax-y than it could have been. Although perhaps I just need to wait for a dream to come along and explain everything to me.
As I reflect on this novel, I’m becoming more aware of the underlying themes of choice and desire that fuelled the crazy violence. It wasn’t gratuitous, even though it may appear that way. There was a point, in the story. Lots of points, actually. Lots of questions. Is the Bad Green Glob God Thing causing people to commit acts of violence that they wouldn’t do otherwise? Or is It encouraging bloodlust and callousness that are already present, latent, waiting… just like the God itself is?
I’m also fascinated by the theme of sacrifice as the goal of violence, instead of the violent act as its own goal. I hear rhetoric about violence as a release – the satisfaction of a need (like on Dexter or in other portrayals of serial killers), or as an inexplicable act with no real goal or purpose, like throwing a cake against a wall for no reason. Senseless destruction, the news-anchor tells us.
But what if it’s not?
If you like a book that draws you in, and still has you thinking weeks after you’ve finished it, then you will love Dead Religion!