For George Sato, his birthday celebration involves three parts: first, get ridiculously drunk with his friends; second, steal a strange piece of paper from a mysterious bookstore; and the third, summon a demon. While it was meant to be a joke, brought on by lots and lots of alcohol, the demon summoning ritual actually works, and George is left with a demon in his house. The demon, Jack, is short tempered and only wants to get back to hell. Fortunately, fulfilling George’s request — get rid of his nasty boss — is an easy bit of work. Getting rid of George, though, is going to be a hell of a lot harder.
George, for lack of a better term, likes Jack. He likes his grouchiness and he likes the way he smiles. He summons Jack again and again, making him take George out to dinner or to go with him to a fair. They watch movies together, steal prizes from the midway, and generally, George just wants Jack to spend time with him. Unfortunately, all of this constant summoning of a demon is having side effects. The shadows are getting darker, the days are getting shorter, and soon George will have to make a choice between Jack … and all of humanity.
This novella is written in the third-person omniscient present tense, which took some getting used to. Fortunately, this was a short enough story and the author a decent writer, so it wasn’t too difficult, it just caused some small issues that I, personally, didn’t care for, especially in exposition scenes or action scenes where it came across as clumsy. At times, it was more like reading stage directions.
George is a man now closer to thirty than twenty (he’s just turned 26) and is feeling unhappy with his life. He’s bored, he’s lonely, and he’s a bit of a brat. When he realizes he’s actually summoned a demon, he’s a bit surprised, but mostly he’s just really pleased. Pleased enough that, once he comes up with something for the demon to do, he invites him to stay for beer. As one does, with a demon.
George isn’t the sort of man who understands the word “no.” When Jack vanishes, George’s first thought is to summon him again. And again and again and again. He summons the demon half a dozen times just to chat, or hang out, eventually commanding the demon to give him his phone so George can get his number. Now they can be texting buddies, even though Jack doesn’t want to be buddies at all. Jack would really rather not be bothered by George, but George is determined that there’s a thing between them. Unfortunately, that ‘thing’ is mostly one-sided.
Jack’s actions, every now and then, seem to hint at an interest in George — especially when he’s at his most annoying — which George takes for liking. But George is fairly clear, even to himself, that that it’s the idea of having a demon for a lover, rather than Jack himself, that gets him going. There’s such a marked disparity between the inner monologue and the actual spoken dialogue by both Jack and George that it left me feeling flat and uninterested in this book, and uncomfortable with the relationship. George thinks he loves the demon, but there’s never a hint as to what it is about Jack that he actually likes, let alone loves.
Too much of the story takes places in actions where I am told what happened without being able to witness it for himself. Such as:
Jack doesn’t talk much; he’s blunt with his answers, but he doesn’t avoid questions and he has a sardonic sense of humor that isn’t laugh-out-loud, but George finds he can’t get enough of all the same.
Jack’s sharp edges have been dulled by the beer and prolonged exposure to George.
It would have been nice to see them talk, to see what Jack said that was so funny or how George tamed a demon in a matter of paragraphs, but instead we’ll have to take the author’s word for it. It made for disastifying reading and a lack of believability for any relationship between them. It doesn’t help that George has to be the most whiny, selfish, and unpleasant young man to ever command a demon. When he’s told that his actions, his constant summoning of a demon from hell to the mortal world, have weakened the barrier that protects humanity from hell, his first reaction isn’t concern for the damage he caused. Instead it’s, “oh no, don’t take my demon away from me!” Only after all of this does he think to wonder what the price was for summoning a demon — not just once, but a half dozen times — and is angry when Jack doesn’t spell it out for him. How dare an entity from hell not tell him everything while he was summoning him again and again, pestering him, harassing him, all-but-stalking him! He keeps blaming Jack for lying to him simply because the demon didn’t tell him that his actions had consequences. That’s not lying. That’s the demon assuming the mortal who keeps pestering him has the ability to understand, much like any child does, that stealing is wrong, summoning a demon from hell is wrong, and saying please and thank you are polite. When George is finally forced to face the consequences of his actions, he has a moment of selflessness. Not to save the world, though. Not even to fix the damage he’s done, damage that has cost lives. No, he wants Jack to be happy.
I’m left conflicted by this book. There was some interesting world building, and the writing was decent, once I got used to the style. It’s a quick and easy read, but George is a brat and I ended up feeling nothing at all for Jack. There was no romance, no real relationship, and only the starting hints of a story. Personally, I’d pass on this one.