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A Satan Carol by spiritual horror author Alan Steven Kessler combines elements of the macabre and parody/satire to explore the concepts of free will and evil. Not having read in this horror subcategory before, I was intrigued when I received a copy of this ebook for review.

The story begins in 1848 Ireland during a time of intense famine. A poor, nearly starved boy dies in the countryside, releasing a ‘golden soul,’ a special soul full of kindness and healing power. Had he lived, he would have infected generations with goodness.

The tale then moves 180 years later to Christmas Eve in Massachusetts, where we encounter Katie Katz, a troubled, pregnant 14-year old who’s planning an abortion. Revolving around her are various characters who are interconnected in some way, either by family ties or by Mr. Green—aka the Devil—who has an agenda and will stop at nothing to tempt them and play with their conscience.

Among these characters are Katie’s father, Harvey Katz, a top notch lawyer who defends rapists and killers, does drugs and treats women like objects; her grandfather Orem, who’s cursed with prophesies and visions no one believes; Fritz Mueller, a gruesome doctor who performs abortions and uses the fetuses to extract a serum that could affect people’s growth. There are others, too, such as Katie’s mother and Harvey’s assistant.

Through the generations, Mr. Green has been following these people since birth, trying to shape their destinies to suit his purposes. At the top of his agenda, of course, is the golden soul and the way it could affect his son Pal. Though we have an idea that all the characters are pawns in Mr. Green’s evil games, it isn’t until the middle that we get a clearer picture of what’s really going on.

Mr Green tries to convince and trick his victims with dreams and hallucinations, but in the end, they have free will. As the plot evolves and the characters opt to follow the right path, Mr. Green grows increasingly frustrated. In fact, he becomes exhausted and whiny, prone to temper tantrums. After all, it isn’t easy bending the fabric of time and trying to be everywhere at once.

Who is the ghost of Christmas Eve? Is it Pal, Satan’s son? Is it Katie’s unborn child? Or is it the golden soul itself? Will Satan get his way in the end?

A Satan Carol moves back and forth in time and is told from multiple points of view. It is a well-written story with a heavy message that will especially appeal to Christian readers. Though some of the segments are gruesome and bordering on the bizarre, at times Kessler uses dark, twisted humor to lighten the prose. The story explores the universal theme of good versus evil with a particular focus on the power of free will. Kessler writes with a lot of attention to detail and some of the paragraphs are quite long, especially in the first half of the book. The pacing is faster in the second half, with less exposition and lots more dialogue.

A Satan Carol is an out-of-the-ordinary read that invites self pondering. Recommended for readers of horror and Christian fiction who’d like to try something different.

A Satan Carol
by Alan Steven Kessler
Wild Child Publishing
ISNB: 978-1-61798-013-8
Copyright 2009
290 pages
$5.99
Formats: PDF, HTML, ePub, Mobi, Lit, PRC
Spiritual/Christian Horror
Author’s website: http://www.askessler.com
Listen to the first chapter online: http://www.askessler.com/listen.html

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The next presidential election is getting near… and handsome, charismatic Senator Howard Stark wants to become president. There’s only one problem: He’s possessed by Sargatanas, a powerful demon who wants to unleash all evil on earth. To make things worse, Stark’s assistant happens to be a malevolent, highly-intelligent practitioner of the black arts, and she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants. One by one, the other candidates begin to die, some of illness, others due to mysterious accidents.

Enter the good guys: occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain. Together, they risk their lives while trying to find a way to exorcise the senator, which isn’t easy. After all, how do you get past the U.S. Secret Service and the forces of hell itself?

Sympathy for the Devil is pure entertainment. I’ve read all of the books in the Morris and Chastain Investigation series and I have to say I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed them. Just like in the earlier installments, the story, told from multiple points of view, opens with a reader-grabbing scene and continues its quick, suspenseful pace until the end. Author Justin Gustainis raises the stakes high and makes the characters sympathetic, getting you to care for their predicament. He’s also great at making you hate the villain. The secondary characters are interesting, too — even some of the bad ones are likable.

Lots of action and dialogue propel the plot; Gustainis doesn’t spend much time on description. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy and supernatural, and political thrillers, you’ll relish this one. Also, Sympathy for the Devil stands alone perfectly, so don’t worry if you haven’t read the earlier novels. I certainly look forward to reading what Quincey and Libby are up to next.

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