“Dark God Descending”
by Tony-Paul de Vissage, 2012
In this book we are introduced to an interesting species of lava-demon. Five thousand years ago they were spewed out of a volcano and promptly made themselves into the gods of the proto-Mesoamerican civilization. Bat-winged, covered in scales, and having fiery eyes, they appear both formidable and unique.
But after five thousand years has passed (which is only six generations for demons), the demons have evolved so that they can pass for human, albeit with wings—and even those can be hidden. This robs them of much of the uniqueness they had when they were introduced.
And along with trying to make monsters into ordinary people, we are once again given a Ricesque vision of angst from the lips of bored immortals. Emperor Semris and his kid brother, Ne'all, bemoan their fate as rulers of a small nation of pseudo-Mayans that survives into modern times. This bit of ennui seems recycled from de Vissage's Second Species series, exchanging demons for vampires.
Then, in the modern day, anthropologist Lane Westcott and students Tucker Upchurch and Fernando Cruz launch an expedition to find the Demonic Bat people and their lost city. Of course, the ruins of previously unknown Mayan cities are being discovered to this day, covered by the thick jungles of the Yucatan.
Not having learned the lessons from King Kong, Professor Westcott soon captures Semris and plans to take him back to the States and put him on display. Soon the captured emperor is moaning and begging for help.
Back in the jungle, his brother Ne'all, realizing the emperor has been kidnapped, rushes into action—he marries a human girl.
Meanwhile, Tucker helps Semris escape, but he is shot and wounded. Then he crash-lands nearby and soon befriends a horse and a girl. In that order. By some amazing coincidence that is harder to believe than bat-winged demon-people from volcanoes, she just happens to be Tucker's girlfriend!
This is followed by several more chapters of domestic culture-shock and the pace lags seriously. After a while there's some sex (though not with the woman I was expecting) and eventually an adventure back to the jungle. (I thought Cruz and Chanua were the most interesting and least used characters in the book. I hope they hooked up somewhere off-screen.)
While the book is not conflict-free, there's certainly not a great deal of it. For the most part, the characters are all just so understanding and warm-hearted. And the villain is not well-motivated or particularly challenging.
But some people want that. If you're one of them, then “Dark God” is the book for you. The book is well written and the characters are believable, even if they have bat wings. If not as polished as the Second Species series, “Dark God” makes up for it in giving us a unique setting and almost-unique creatures.
Quibbles: Shannon's brother, a doctor, gives her a prescription for birth control. Sorry, doctors can't prescribe for relatives.