“One of Lucifer’s most effective tricks is to make us not believe in him. When people don’t believe in the devil, they lose their need to believe in God…”

Smite The Damned by Zack Kullis

 

 

One such read is Smite The Damned – the debut novel from Zack Kullis – an amalgam of spiritual-powered dark fantasy, arcane thriller and conventional horror. The general premise – the ongoing struggle between the forces of evil and the humans whose souls they are hellbent to corrupt – isn’t exactly innovative. It’s arguably the most popular theme in all of literature – Dante Alighieri's Inferno, Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, John Milton's Paradise Lost, Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger, etc. – but the power of this read comes from Kullis’ relentless focus on pacing, nonstop action and the profound religious/spiritual commentary interwoven throughout.

 

After a choppy start in which the narrative was less than fluid, the storyline – which revolves around physics doctoral student Keith Da Silva – picks up and after a handful of chapters, Kullis seemed to find his storytelling groove. When Keith – who lost both of his parents as a child under tragic circumstances – is confronted by nightmarish entities, his clear-cut, analytical perception of reality is turned upside down in an instant.

 

“Can a modern world with nanotechnology, particle colliders and science coexist with a world that held unexplainable things like spirits and demons?”

 

His mundane existence is altered even further when he is asked to do nothing short of guard humankind from the vast armies of darkness…

 

Again, nothing particularly revolutionary here as far as storyline goes but the action-packed and wryly humorous narrative makes up for it. Here’s a sampling:

 

• “Keith held up his Katana, and faced the ugly demon, ready to fight. Alastor laughed loudly, then reached down and ripped off one of the spike-arms of the nauseous beast. The cracking and tearing sound was accompanied by a sharp cry from the beast, but the cry was not entirely a cry of pain. The creature’s face showed a repulsive combination of pain and some kind of twisted ecstasy, its gelatinous features shaking with small spasms of delight…”

 

• “Oh come on now, where is your sense of humor? Wait, I think I found it… Never mind, that was your liver.”

 

But it was the religious and spiritual commentary that made this book such a memorable read for me. Smite The Damned succeeded on multiple levels – in large part because of Kullis’ subtle use of extended allegory. It’s obvious that the author put some deep, soulful contemplation into this novel – and it shows. Here are just a few examples:

 

• “The genius behind the Dark Lord’s plan was simple; a person’s conviction to protect what they believe to be good and holy can often be used to get them to do wickedness and evil. For thousands of years mankind has been duped into killing itself, and was damning itself in the process. Much blood had been shed in the name of God, but it was the God of darkness that they unknowingly did it for, and not the deity that they claimed to revere.”

 

• “Sometimes the good need to fight rather than turn the other cheek. The time has come to smite the Damned.”

 

An appealing blend of horror, dark fantasy and Christian mythology, readers looking for a new author to sample should definitely check out Kullis’ Smite The Damned, a hellishly entertaining tale powered by a dim but hopeful antediluvian light…

 

 

Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. 

 

 Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!



Comments
by on ‎09-27-2011 11:33 PM

After reading your review of this book, I hope that it is one day published in written form. 

by Author Zkullis on ‎10-05-2011 07:21 PM

Thank you Paul!  I am sending this out to everybody I know.

 

@ dalnewt, I will do everything I can to have this published in written form! 

 

I am also working on the sequel.

by BrandieC on ‎02-20-2012 06:14 PM

Paul,

 

I started this one today based on your recommendation, and I have to agree with you that it is off to a very rocky start.  I'm about 50 pages in, and if it weren't for your promise above that it gets better, I would have already given up (although I did enjoy the line about the liver, too :smileywink:).

 

I'll report back when (or if) I finish.

by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎02-20-2012 06:57 PM

I'll be waiting, B!

 

by BrandieC on ‎02-23-2012 10:27 PM

I finally finished the book tonight, and I'm sad to say that I never thought it got any better.  There were just too many instances of jarringly poor word choices and sentence constructions.  I keep a reading journal where I record passages I particularly like in each book I read, but I actually got to the point that I was highlighting passages because I thought they were particularly bad:

 

"[H]e wanted to kill the twerp himself."  I just can't imagine a significant evil presence, such as Mors is supposed to be, referring to his holy opposition as a "twerp."

 

"[H]e needed to kill the pistol-toting granny before she plugged him."  We're supposed to appreciate Keith's struggle between his revulsion for the possessed and his compassion for the human hosts; the reference to a "pistol-toting granny" is inappropriately glib, and the use of "plugged" is just cheesy.

 

"He had thought about trying to be quiet, but all of the gunshots kind of killed that option."  Kind of?  Really?

 

"He could have just stepped over [the severed arm], but he decided he needed to try to keep this real."  What does moving the arm, rather than stepping over it, have to do with "keeping it real"?  To be fair, I've never understood what "keeping it real" is supposed to mean - maybe it's a generational thing.

 

"As good as Adam may or may not be, he just thought it was stupid to take a small army to kill one boy."  The "he" in this sentence actually refers to Mors, not Adam, and the tense change from present to past in a single sentence (which happens more than once in this book) is awkward.

 

"Deumos was really going to put the screws to the pathetic man.  She was good!"  Both the "putting the screws" cliche and the second sentence, with its exclamation mark, contribute to the overall juvenile tone of the writing in this book.

 

I am the first to admit that I could never write fiction, so this may be a case of "those who can, write; those who can't write, criticize."  However, as a lawyer, I have spent 25 years writing clearly and persuasively, and as an avid reader of hundreds of books each year, I think I am generally a pretty good judge of good writing even when I don't care for a book's plot or subject matter.  I wanted to like this book because your recommendations rarely steer me wrong, Paul, but this time, the writing flaws obscured any deeper meaning for me.

 

Mr. Kullis, if you happen to read this post, please take it in the spirit of constructive criticism.  I understand that this was your debut novel, and most first books have more than their fair share of "misses," so I'll be rooting for your sophomore effort.

by Author Zkullis on ‎06-05-2012 10:02 AM

Good morning Brandie,

 

It took me quite a while to go back and take a look at this post.  Reading your initial comment and subsequent reply was a painful experience, but it was also a good experience.  I imagine it is like needing to have a poorly mended bone broken again in order to properly set it - not even remotely pleasant, but necessary to end up with an improved result.

 

Thanks for the lashing.  :smileywink:  Paul was kind enough to give me additional feedback as well, so I would really like to thank you both.  I am nearly finished with the first draft of the sequel to Smite the Damned, and will use all of this input to try and improve as I go. 

 

The writing process is enjoyable for me and is a way for me to decompress from work.  I plan on writing for many years to come.

 

Sincerely,

 

Zack...

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