By Thaxson Patterson II
Publisher: Black Bed Sheet Books
Pub Date: 6-20-2016
Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars
What do you do if the devil is just a man?
That is only two of the questions Thaxson Patterson II throws around in his taut novella Devil’s Maintenance. It appears the government is holding a man by the name of Daniel Edgar Vincent Ivan Liberty (DEVIL) in a top secret facility under the Greenland ice. Daniel has incredible and inexplicable intellectual powers that allow him to decipher and predict pretty much anything. This ability makes it easy to manipulate others and, being the evil sociopath he is, he enjoys the destruction it brings. He is deemed a massive threat to the country but his abilities are too powerful for the government not to utilize. Daniel has it in his grasp to destroy the world or he can save it…for a price.
Into this scenario enters Information Assurance Technical Director, Ray Peterson. He is at first a skeptic and is sure enough of himself to think he can avoid Daniel’s manipulations. The novella is part science fiction and part horror. It is also a clever take on the deal with the devil story. Yet I sense some of it is a throwback to the old British “cat-and-mouse-game” mystery where two protagonists are pitted against each other. Ray does not know what he has gotten himself into. Daniel is a mixture of stratospheric intelligence and pure evil that makes Moriarty seem like a boy scout. It is easy to see why the few involved in this “devilish”project thinks Daniel is indeed the devil and they may be more correct than they know.
For such a short novella, there are a lot of ideas floating through its page. There are enough questions around the plot to fill a longer novel and that is one of my complaints. It is the type of story that begs for more. To entertain any of the questions may give too much away but a meditation on the role of evil is foremost. In order to have evil, does good need to be complicit? Are we the devil’s enemy or sidekick? Patterson’s storytelling is concise but in danger of seeming pulpish on the surface when it really isn’t. The book has a delightfully twisted ending. Yet the real kick may happen after the reader puts the book down and think about the two main characters. I hope the authors decides to revisit Daniel Edgar Vincent Ivan Liberty in the future. I think there may be more we can learn from him even if we may regret it.