What would Philip K Dick and Stephen King’s love child look like if it grew up reading 1984 and watching Saw movies? Probably a lot like Inferno by Todd Riemer. There is the decaying dystopian society with requisite brutality and opression, a demon spirit and the ghost of a dead lover caught between two worlds, and well-crafted though rather graphic scenes of torture and abuse. This book is not for the faint of heart but it does have nice, tight prose and good imagery.
The hero of our story, Blum, tells us of his experiences through flashbacks and real time narration. We first meet him in a dream (which honestly put me off a bit, because I didn’t realize it was a dream at first and it seemed incomprehensible, but eventually I read past the first page and it started to make sense). We discover he has been imprisoned for years for rebellion against the oppressive regime that murdered his lover, who was at the time pregnant with his child. We follow him through escape, return, capture, resistance, and another insurrection. Along the way we discover he is being manipulated by a demon spirit called the Midnight Man who hopes to corrupt Blum completely so that he can take the Midnight Man’s place as a tortured and miserable ruler of hell. The Midnight Man holds the ghost of Blum’s lover hostage in the fires, where she will remain until Blum kills her murderers, thereby freeing her to be reborn into a new life.
Inferno is Riemer’s first novel, and is self published. Most of the time I am leery of self published books, because they tend to have grammar and punctuation errors that drive me nuts – more so than books from major publishers with copy editors. I was pleasantly surprised that that was not an issue with Inferno, although it has a unique, almost stream-of-consciousness, style that took some getting used to. Once I adjusted to the style, I quickly got caught up in the imagery of the book. If you enjoy dark stories and don’t mind graphic violence, this is a good read with redemption and a little nugget of hope at the end.
For those of you who prefer a multimedia experience, Riemer also has a website here for all things Inferno.