Kirkus panned Shirley’s Boschian The View from Hell as “Without question the worst book of the year” (2001), and Shirley charged us with missing the human side of his hellscape in a novel that remains the year’s grisliest lurid fiction.
Well, he has done it again, though this time adding a saving humor to his stinger’s grim message about the ghastliness mankind accustoms itself to—and the mind-bendingly horrific acts it accepts as part of daily life. Demons, less a pastiche than Hell, falls into two parts (the first published by Cemetery Dance in 2000). In the very near future, the world is overrun by seven clans of demons. These demons, who speak a hilariously schizoid Tartaran and eat cars, handicapped children, planes, and people by the tens of thousands, look like creatures out of R. Crumb: Tailpipes are massive leviathans, slugs with nothing like a head; multi-batwinged Sharkadians have heads that are all jaws, with a human female’s body and savage claws; Gnashers are abusively sadistic telepaths with human eyes but four arms and jaws like the Sharkadians’; and just as independently horrible are Grindums, Spiders, Dishrags, and Bugsys. Ira, Part One's nerdy storyteller, tells of the day the demons arrive in San Francisco while he romances Melissa Paymenz, the daughter of SFSU’s babbling professor of occult practices. Symbolic of mankind’s meltdown: a Central American country makes fast money as a vast waste dump, no farms, no forests, barely a village left: “Barges come from North America, Mexico, Brazil.” Only Melissa bears the Solar Soul, whose light will awaken sleepers from whom the demons emerge. In Part Two, nine years later, Stephen Isquerat investigates the Demonic Hallucination and finds endless governmental cover-ups.
Masterful, amusing, and sent from Mars.