Author David Bernstein has quite an imagination, and I enjoy what he digs out of it. His previous book, AMONGST THE DEAD, was a refreshing jolt of originality in a genre filled with rehashes and overused literary tropes. Likewise, his most recent publication, DAMAGED SOULS, also brings something new to the table; and while it does not deal with zombies, this engaging tale of demons and devilry will certainly keep you captivated.
If you are not familiar with DAMAGED SOULS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:
Only he can stop the gates of Hell from opening wide.
John Crawford wasn’t able to deal with the pain and took the easy way out. At least he thought he did. Instead, he’s been offered a deal by a nightmarish creature and given a second chance at life. But he’s no longer human. And he’s been assigned an impossible task. He must kill a demon before it opens the gates of Hell and brings about the apocalypse. If John succeeds, the human race will be safe and he can become human again. If he fails, mankind will perish and he will be lost for all eternity.
I love stories about demons because there seem to be no boundaries. With zombies, you have specific guidelines to stay within: they have to be dead, they are usually rotting, they don’t have cognizance, etc. Similarly, vampires usually cannot be out in daylight, they drink blood, etc. You see where I’m going. But with demons, all bets are off. Authors can pretty much do what they want and make them as sadistic as they want to be.
With DAMAGED SOULS, Bernstein introduces us to a demon named Munyok, an ambitious soul-sucker who wants to open a portal to Hell…and let his brethren run free on Earth. Munyok is pure evil incarnate and relishes in the gory, brutal killing of humans. Bernstein creates a solid character with Munyok, an enemy truly in need of a righteous comeuppance.
As with his previous novel, Bernstein writes well, and his prose flows fluidly. I particularly like his writing style because he tends to focus more on progressing the story than filling page after page of overly descriptive passages. This obviously allows for a more immersive story and gives a more enjoyable reading experience.
The characters in DAMAGED SOULS are well thought-out and believable. I am a father of a daughter who is nearly Melanie’s age, therefore I can relate very well to how John reacts when he hears of her death. This book is not just horrific because of the demon…it’s also because of the tragedy the main characters have to endure with the loss of their daughter. This touching, humanistic element reaches the reader on several levels and forces each page to be turned with more and more eagerness.
If I were forced to find a flaw with DAMAGED SOULS, I might have to say it could have been a bit longer. The book measures in at 232 pages, which is not necessarily short…but I think a couple of characters could have been fleshed out more (for example, we could learn more about Michael Jacobs, the drunk who killed Melanie). The book is great as-is, but this is simply my personal opinion.
DAMAGED SOULS is a heck of a book, and I highly recommend giving it a read. If you are new to Bernstein’s work, then you’re in for a real treat; and if you’re a returning fan, you’ll get more of the great work that you’ve come to expect. This book is available now in a variety of formats.