Tobias Wade is one of my favorite authors of horror short stories and longer novellas and novels when it comes to horror. When he serves as a curator of a collection of short stories, Wade also demonstrates excellent judgment in the selection of fellow authors. His author newsletter is one of the best to follow with lots of good referrals to authors such as Ha-Yong Bak. This novel, Demon Seeds, has a subtitle: “A Supernatural Horror Novel.” I disagree with the descriptive word “horror.” It is supernatural, more than that it is fantasy, but it is not “horror.” It is also not horrible, but it defines the story of good versus evil. There is a lot of philosophizing which will drive religious devotees crazy. Denying the existence of God and Satan to replace it with another “entity” will not play well in the heartland. It becomes more of an almost intellectual discussion on the nature of good and evil; can apparently evil entities do things out of love?
It is almost, but not quite, an intellectual discussion because arguments seem to run around in circles in search of masters. Humans are possessed either by demons serving the Beast or a demon (the Beast). The possession is not instantaneous and all-consuming. Human elements of the possessed occasionally take control to assure their loved ones they still exist but they have to work for the beast a while. See you later, maybe. Unless the conversion takes hold completely and then it would just be best to kill the loved one showing no possibility of return anytime soon, like in a lifetime. Lots of moral dilemmas here.
Demon Seeds takes its title from some sort of seed that a person is encouraged to consume so they could become all powerful. Like any seed, it must grow. If soon after ingestion the subject decides to perform some noble act, great. That person could even expel the seed and give it to someone else. Ender Maston, a soldier and a leader of men, did that. Leading a squad of soldiers into an underground cave in search of a possibly supernatural evil being, Enders was betrayed and his soldiers faced certain death. Enders swallowed the seed and allowed powers to take effect that saved his soldiers. Enders returned home to find his daughter, Jessica, had committed suicide. Too late for her, she was dead. But Enders expelled the seed, gave it to his wife, Mackenzie. She swallows the seed and brings Jessica back to life. This should have made Jessica happy but she only returned to resume her life as a cripple, a condition brought about from an earlier attempted suicide by leaping off a five-story building. Not only was she not happy about resuming life, she noticed that mom and dad were near zombies, perhaps from retaining the demon seed too long.
Back to the soldiers whose lives Enders had saved. Several of them return to the town where Enders, Jessica, and Mackenzie live because they have heard that Enders did not die but they realize some supernatural power might still possess Enders. In an attempt to rescue him, they realize that Mackenzie is also not all that normal and they decide to rescue Jessica from possible conversion. And maybe later rescue Enders. Jessica is hiding out at the home of a very strange teacher who is some type of occultist. Jessica might need rescuing from this guy as well. Although Jessica is rescued from immediate danger, Enders, Mackenzie, and evil occultist teacher Henry Wiggins pursue Jessica, presumably with the intent of forced conversion.
At this point, the novel becomes more of an action novel than anything else. There is travel to Sweden, exploration of underwater caves, air disasters, and evil cropping up in the disguises of parents, hotel registrars, and even in the characters of our rescuers.
But this is not a horror novel. It is also not a romance novel although for some unknown reason there are a couple of extremely chaste kisses that hint at later possible romantic involvement. These passages stand out as examples of “why do these passages exist?” On the other hand, there are no sex scenes so there is that going for it (or not).
Wade describes settings very well, especially in the first half of the novel. If the reader takes the time to pay attention (read slowly) the reward is vivid descriptions of underground mines and underwater temples. Evil, perhaps in the form of the Beast or perhaps in the form of possessed humans, makes colorful entrances and exits through portals separating human and evil homelands.
I gave this novel only a three because it is not horror. It is saved by Wade’s descriptive writing. I am happy I read it for free on Kindle Unlimited. I will read more of Tobias Wade’s writings; he is a writer I frequently recommend. But I will make sure to read samples first.