Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer


Jack Chalker And the Devil Will Drag You Under

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I read this book back when it first came out in 1979, so I was still somewhat young and impressionable, still trying to find my feet as a writer. The cover is what sucked me in, made me lift that book out of that rack and take it home. Darrel Sweet really rocked book covers.

I remember reading it and thinking what a neat idea the book represented. In it, a demon, Mogart, sends two humans on quests to save the world from the imminent collision with an asteroid that was hopefully being brought into Earth’s orbit so it can be mined for valuable minerals. That was a science fiction premise, but the book quickly ducks into fantasy even though the pretense of SF is kept up throughout.

The structure reminded me of old Gardner F. Fox Justice Society comics where the heroes would come together, realize the great threat before them, then break up into groups to go solve/confront various parts of the menace, then meet back up to do the final battle.

I like that the book still has that mythic quality. Reading, essentially, seven different parts of the story seems easy. I still enjoyed the various worlds that were represented in the book. They’re pretty superficial, all in all. Like I said, I was much more impressionable the first time I read it.

Looking at the book now, I real that the characters aren’t layered and don’t really grow. I didn’t really know them when I was a kid, but that didn’t matter because I wanted to be them. I wanted to be a hero who could save the day.

I also realize now that the author, Jack Chalker, was only 33 or 34 when he wrote the book, and we (the dreamers of other worlds) were all pretty innocent back in those days. The book wouldn’t stand up in New York these days, and I don’t know that my son would enjoy it either because it doesn’t have that sophisticated worldbuilding he looks for in his fantasy/SF. He’s a much more educated reader at his age than I was.

Still, And The Devil Will Drag You Under allowed me to step back in time and visit with my younger self for a while, as well as to encourage me in my writing education. I’ve written nearly 200 books, but you’re always learning in this business.

The book would be a fun read for everyone who was a Jack Chalker fan back in the day. I know I was.

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