Sympathy for the Devil is a box set of five short stories all about the band Abadon, each of which are filled with sex, sex, more sex, and a little bit of plot and world building … and more sex. The only difference between these rock gods and any other is that each band member is, in fact, an actual god. After all, who do people worship more today than celebrities?
Together they tour the world, party like demons, and — along the way — fall in love.
I DNF’d this story after the first chapter. To start with, I ended the chapter having no real idea of what was going on. First, Charle walks in on his ex cheating with twins, having recently returned from work where he was interviewing — in his own words — a “stripper-turned-female-rap-sensation” who was ”surprisingly intelligent” for all that she had a stripper pole in her studio. What is it that makes her intelligence surprising? Is it surprising a stripper, a rapper, or a woman is intelligent? The anti-sex work, anti-rap, anti-woman vibe put me immediately off of Charle as a character, followed by the rest of chapter one.
So Charle is home, confronting his ex and the twins, but now … they’re fucking in the car? Charle mourns how he’s dateless since breaking up with his ex, only to go immediately to talking to the cops about getting a restraining order on his ex while having him arrested, but then we’re still in the same conversation from the very beginning of the scene where Charle and Dick are arguing, and Charle throws a punch. So are they in a car or not? Is Dick arrested before the punch is thrown, or after? Did Dick come back with the twins to fuck in Charle’s car again so they could get in a fight? The lack of structure, combined with the misogynistic comment on the female rapper, made this an instant pass. So, on to the next one! Abadon!
Charle is the resident reporter, in theory writing a story about the band that consists of Abadon, Hash, Sin, and Enk. However, he spends more time bailing on the band to go get his dick sucked by some groupie in another drug-fueled party, only to go lurching off to another party, often leaving the band having to go find him. There is also tension between Charle and Abadon, an unresolved sexual tension as they had a magical, perfect, earth-ending one night stand without seeing each other’s faces in the first story. Now, Abandon is looking for the man who fucked him, and Charlie is looking for the man he fucked, all while mooning over each other, but doing nothing about it.
This story combined the whole “out of control, partying like a teenage groupie” with a vaguely strange purity culture. Charle assures Abadon that he didn’t really sleep with any of them (blowjobs, hand jobs, and having his ass eaten out don’t count) because he was saving it for the man he loved. Then there’s the lecture given to Charle by other band members about his behavior.
Charle going from being a regular, dependable person who calls his mom on Sundays to an attention seeking party boy — add in exhibitionism and group sex (but it isn’t really sex because it isn’t penetrative), drinking like there’s no tomorrow, and taking random pills strangers give him — all to please Abadon or to prove to Adabon that he can hang with the band is apparently what he has to do to ‘grow up.’ Because changing who you are completely for someone else’s pleasure is … the mature thing to do?
Abadon is a 2 star for me. I didn’t like the messaging and I didn’t like how inconsistent Charle’s personality was from party boy to sulky wet blanket to sex fiend.
Rise by Sin
This is best of the five books. It is about Python — whose real name is Sin — and Orion, a transgender bartender who meet, hook up … and then can’t seem to let one another go. Sin is respectful of Orion’s body, asking what is allowed and what isn’t, what brings pleasure and what doesn’t, what words to use, and altogether the two of them have great chemistry. They also have a really nice banter between them, with Sin leaning heavy on the dad jokes, and Orion asking if he isn’t really the god of corn and cheese for how bad his sense of humor is.
Bang One Out
It’s instant, the connection Aika feels for Hash. It’s the only excuse she has for letting him fuck her in the back of the private plane the band are on as they head out. It’s magical, it’s wonderful, and Hash wants this to be more than a one-time thing. Before Aika can say anything, a bomb goes off and the plane crashes into the wood. Saved by divine intervention, Aika has to decide if she’s able to believe this whole “we are gods” thing … all while random chickens, magical bacon, and a rabid attack Chihuahua’s make an appearance.
This book is lighter and more comedic in tone. Hash and Aika have a nice, natural rapport between them.
Enk, the last in the band, is a god of mischief. A trickster. Why is it that while all of his friends are finding nice, safe, normal humans to love them, Enk ends up with another god? Kokopelli, an indigenous American god, is captivated by Enk, who isn’t what he seems to be. Soon the two are playing Romeo and Juliet, complete with balconies and an angry nursemaid (Abadon) who doesn’t want Enk’s heart getting broken.
This one is heavier on the plot with a slower build up of tension between Enk and Koko, and I think has more funny moments than Bang One Out.
For all that I DNF’d the first story and didn’t like the second, there was some overall very well thought out world building in this story that I enjoyed:
“I suppose some could call me the devil. I was a war god.” He began to play something that sounded dark and sinister but enthralling at the same time. “I was the god of plague, war, death, and disease. I was a fire god, the lord of the desert. People feared me. People loved me. People would drop to their knees and praise me if I quirked an eyebrow. I was a rock star, Charle-boy. People from all over brought me tribute. I was their savior, the guardian to the gates of the underworld, their salvation from the barbarian hordes.” “
And… and you still exist?” Trying to accept all of this was giving him a headache. How old was Abadon anyway?
“I still exist because people never stop killing, never stop causing plagues, and still worship at the destruction they attributed to me. But you know what the scary thing is, Charle boy?” He stopped playing abruptly, slamming his palms down on the strings, enveloping the room in silence. “The scary thing is that I never did any of those things. Bring about plagues? Maybe they should have bathed more or not shit and pissed in their drinking water. Brought about war? Maybe they shouldn’t have raped and fucked their way into their neighbors’ camps, stole their daughters, burned their crops. But everyone needs someone to blame and if they wanted to blame me, who was I to quibble? They created me because they didn’t want to take responsibly for their actions when they saw the horrible things that they had done. So they created me, breathed me into life, and guess what? They still do. They still worship me, Charle. And as a rock star, the worship I get is more focused, more pure. No one is tainting my tributes with fear or anger. They praise me for the skills that I spent years honing. I’m being worshiped for my own merits, my own human actions.”
Hash, Abadon, Sin, and Enk are not human. Have never been human. And while they take human lovers, they cannot make them immortal or elevate them beyond their humanity. And it’s moments where the characters turn thoughtful that I really appreciated:
“I may look it, Orion, but I’m not human. I was created out of human want and need, but I’m not human. I feel deeply, but I also know that existence is a perilous thing. I reared my kids to understand this. We’re not afraid of nonexistence. We were never really born, so we can’t really die. But we all know that our time, though seemingly infinite, is not. We have our duties to perform and our reasons for being here. When those duties are complete, it is our place to cease to be.”
I would read an entire series of the author’s gods just talking about life, about philosophy, and religion. However, these books are all about the sex. All of the gods are versatile, joyous, and wear condoms. For all that Charle took to the groupie life with abandon, the gods in this book are more into sex and rock’n roll than drugs. The last three stories are the ones worth reading. I say skip the first two.