Antediluvian Light: Zack Kullis’ Debut Novel is a Grisly – and Powerfully Allegorical – Dark Fantasy
“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.
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