The Devil You Know
Edited by R.J. Carter
Published by Critical Blast Publishing
Paperback, 370 pages
Satan. Lucifer. First of the Fallen. Old Scratch.
The Devil is known by many names, and he dwells in the pages of countless stories. And scripture gives us plenty of warning to avoid him. But the forbidden is always tempting, and these tales of encounters with the Devil serve to reinforce just how things can go wrong. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes, there are bodies.
The Devil You Know is a collection of twenty short stories all featuring various encounters with people from all walks of life in all sorts of circumstances, and it’s this broad mix of protagonists and situations that serve to remind us that the Devil can appear in any setting and can cause problems for anyone. Modern parables can teach lessons just as much as parables from ancient times.
It’s a good mix of protagonists, too. None of them are pure as the wind-driven snow. There are people caught by circumstance, and there are people who are just awful. Some innocents, and some not-so-innocent. Some are more likeable than others, which allows for a variety in how the Devil enters the story. At times he’s smooth and conniving. Sometimes he’s sneaky. At all times, he’s very clearly up to no good.
And sometimes he doesn’t quite get what he wants.
Notable among the collection: “Not a Saint” by Jared Baker. It’s a twist on the traditional Christmas story, with a new reason why parents want their kids to be asleep. And “The Night Before Christmas” will take on a new layer of meaning for you. It’s an inventive use of tradition, turning everything inside out on just how “Saint Nick” operates.
I also enjoyed “The Devil & The Details” by Henry Vogel, in which ol’ Scratch gets quite a bit more than he bargained for. “A Night at Satan’s Palace” by Damascu Mincemeyer is also worth a mention. It closes out the book with a Sin City tale that could only happen in Vegas.
The only story that didn’t work was “I Don’t Eat Children” by Michael W. Clark. It felt like pieces of this story were missing. It was disjointed and confusing. The plot jumps from scene to scene with exposition and character development left for the reader to fill in the gaps with broad leaps of imagination.
I like that the book doesn’t glorify Satan, doesn’t give him any kind of sympathy. He’s the villain. He’s the Bad Guy. And everyone knows it. He’s generally not even the hero of his own story. He knows what his role is to be in the world, and some of these stories lean into that pretty well, while others twist it up a little and approach the First of the Fallen with a little unexpected sideways characterization. Overall, it’s a nice blend of thriller, suspense, supernatural, and horror. Well worth the time.