Indie Speculative Fiction Review- Armageddon's Arc by Victor Baptiste
Armageddon's Arc by Victor Baptiste is an unusual horror novella. The style harkens back to the philosophical writings of Plato. The story plays out almost entirely in conversations between a priest and a demon and while much of it is engaging that conversation is also problematic because the characters do not have particularly distinct voices. This limited format saps much of the excitement from a story that should have been immediately engaging. From its cosmic scale to all of the opposing gambits to bring on and avert the biblical apocalypse, the plot has some clever turns. The true nature, names and motivations of all of the characters are constantly changing around. I can honestly say that I did not guess the ending before it arrived and I was even taken in by the well choreographed third act twist.
The writing is good enough to be easily understood although there were a few malapropisms that stood out distinctly. The meta-twist intended to tie events back into a real life setting is clumsily inserted late in the story and seemed almost incoherent when compared to the tight plotting of the rest of the book. Especially in light of the story having travelled far from the realms of reality by the end of the first paragraph or so. The story's greatest asset is also its greatest flaw, it is difficult to get invested in a character when their loyalty and personality shift every minute or two. This is a story without sympathetic characters.
The book requires you to accept Christian myth as fact and then begins its world building from that point and while I was happy to be along for the ride I imagine that it, like most religious horror, is predicated on following that belief structure. Hell is only frightening if you believe in hell and for me that was where the story fails as horror and just becomes a religious fantasy. I know that I will catch some flack for this opinion, but horror needs to be frightening. Otherwise it isn't horror.
As a slight aside there is an undercurrent of homophobia and transphobia running throughout this book. Threats of eternal torture do not make the stalwart hero break a sweat but the moment buggery is threatened he gets nervous. There are trans-slurs peppering this book, used repeatedly in reference to a monstrous bi-gendered demon, that will probably make anyone in the LGBTQ community moderately uncomfortable.
There was nothing fundamentally wrong with this story but many factors drag it down from being good to merely good enough. Not the least of these problems is that a plot twist does not constitute a plot. If Baptiste's clever writing had been brought to bear on a story with a larger focus than a few conversations, if he had shown instead of told, then it might have garnered a little more approval.
Damned by faint praise.
Armageddon's Arc is available on Amazon.com
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