Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Michael Laimo
Published by Leisure Books
The first two books I ready by Michael Laimo, Demonology and Dead Souls, so impressed me with their religious imagery and ponderings of the nature of evil that I was sure I had a new author to watch. Something about religious horror, the fight between entities of both good and evil, fascinates me for reasons I can’t fully explain.
So when Fires Rising showed up, I hoped I would be in for more of the same, only on a bigger level since Laimo himself has said it’s the book he’s most proud of. While I definitely did get more of the ole good vs. evil bit, and it was amped up to a whole new level, Fires Rising just felt flat to me.
The story, at its most basic, is about an ancient evil that’s brought to life in modern-day Manhattan by a homeless person. A church on the road to being torn down is where the vagrant, named Jyro, holes up from the elements, staying on the second floor away from the construction crews in the midst of demolishing the building. One night he goes to see what they’ve been working on, and finds a hole filled with human remains and a mysterious crate. Inside said crate? A rosary and a chalice. A chalice that floats, no less.
Meanwhile, a priest who used to work at said church begins to realize something is not right. He starts having strange visions and finds cryptic messages written in his room, all the while feeling that something very big and evil is coming. The evil that promises man the end of the days, as a matter of fact.
Want to know why I remember that exact phrase? Because Laimo uses it over and over again throughout Fires Rising to the point that as soon as the priest would begin recalling a conversation he had, usually one only about 15 pages previous, I knew I could skip over it because it would always end with that damn phrase. Pun intended.
Repetition in a novel can be understandable, there are only so many ways you can phrase an event I suppose, but Fires Rising features more repetitive scenes, conversations being both recalled and/or had again with slightly different phrasing, that occasionally I had to check and make sure I wasn’t reading Ed Lee at his worst.
Repetition aside, there are some positive elements to Fires Rising. It’s gory as hell for one, everything from limbs being torn asunder to massive monsters made out of human waste, but a gore factor can really only count towards something when you have a solid story to back it up. The story in Fires Rising never really gets near the territory of solid, sadly.
Most of what goes on has to do with a group of homeless men, all of whom are former alter boys or ministers, fighting back the evil that is coming to get them or talking about looking for the missing chalice (or the sinless one, another phrase used ad nauseum). If weren’t not with the homeless, we’re watching as the priest discovers that he is the sinless one and making his way back to the church to fight the Big Bad. Not before hearing about the evil that promises man the end of days a few more times, of course.
And the rosary, can’t forget that. For reasons that Laimo never even attempts to make clear, this rosary is special and comes equipped with healing powers. Oh, it can also repel evil pretty well. But why would a rosary have such attributes? And why does it randomly burn people who touch it, only to later heal them? Whatever the reasons, it’s a powerful weapon (albeit a pretty lame one) when in the right hands, so it’s important to the story. Which means it’s mentioned many, many times.
The characters are about as thin as they come, especially this priest who is supposed to be the central character, not to mention the son of the Bride of Christ (sounds like a really cheesy movie, no?) Yes, he’s our savior. But he’s such a flat, forgettable character whom we’re told almost nothing about other than that his mom was a religious nut who apparently hated his choice of vocation right before she died, never mind that she was supposedly the Bride of Christ, and that he used to work at the church now being torn down.
I could go on, I really could, but I think I’ve made my point. I wish I could have better news to report, but there’s very little in Fires Rising that lives up to the potential I saw in Laimo’s previous works. Hopefully this was just a one-off and he’ll have something stronger out of the gate next time around. Perhaps it’s time to try something that isn’t quite so religious?
1/2 out of 5
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