Welcome back to another special edition of Dragonmount's Fantasy Review—looking at the Writing Excuses podcast's anthology Shadows Beneath! Last week's featured story was Mary Robinette Kowal's "A Fire in the Heavens." We will pick up this time with Dan Wells' "I.E.Demon."
This story follows an unnamed main character who is a member of an explosive ordnance disposal team (EOD) in Afghanistan. His current mission is to test whether their technology, a BSE-7, is able to disarm ground mines as the military vehicles pass over them. What he doesn't know is that the BSE-7 stands for a Bound Supernatural Entity, and the 7 makes it a gremlin.
The demonologist on the vehicle gets killed when the gremlin breaks free from its bindings, and it's up to our hero to put the creature back inside.
This story was hilarious. It is the first piece I've read by Dan Wells, and I will say I'll read more. His style was quick paced and always exciting. The dialogue and character's thoughts were sharp and witty. The amount of gruesome horror was glossed over a bit, but the humor was pretty dark; I can see how Wells is considered to be a master in the horror genre.
One scene of the dark humor is when the main character has to perform a rite to seal the demon back inside the improvised explosive device (IED). Wells says the hero "proceeded to perform unspeakably horrible acts on the body of the dead engineer. The lead engineer fainted twice before the ritual was done…" This scene made me laugh out loud. It takes real talent to turn something as awful as war, and as gruesome as demons, into a ridiculously funny event.
The only thing I can call a con with this story is the abbreviations. As someone who isn't at all familiar with military terms, I had to look up all the abbreviations. Most of them are pretty obvious through context, but I like to know exactly what I'm reading about, so I wanted to have a definite answer as to what each thing was.
It doesn't take away from the story at all; in fact, you could say it makes it more realistic. A military member would spend time thinking about what all the abbreviated terms mean.
This story was fantastic. There was never a dull moment. The characters were so compelling. The plot line ridiculous, but completely believable. The conclusion was very satisfying. I loved everything about this.
5 out of 5
If you'd like to listen to the Writing Excuses podcasts for the episode dealing with this story, the link is listed below.
And, of course, you can purchase Shadows Beneath from Dragonmount's eBook store, here. Next week's story will be Howard Tayler's "An Honest Death."