Monday, October 18, 2010
Ebook Review: The Devil's Bidding by Leslie D. Soule
The premise of The Devil's Bidding is that the main character Tom, minimum wage retail employee who lives with his parents, lists his soul at an online auction site to make some extra money. The style of Soule's writing is smooth and down-to-Earth. I was immediately drawn into Tom's troubled life. Soule created in him a very realistic and sympathetic person. Perhaps it was because I could relate to his existence in dead end retail work, especially on a grueling Black Friday shift double shift. I've also been a seller at online auctions for years although it never occurred to me to put my soul up for auction.
Despite my background, I'm sure other readers will be able to quickly feel Tom in their imagination. Soule's writing is packed with details and phrases that interpret our real world and bring it into focus with language that fully activates the senses. For example, the phrase "like the aftertaste of bitter beer" summoned intimately the sensation of bitter in my mind.
I also really liked this sentence:
Tom took a swig of the generic-brand cola he'd bummed off a friend in the hallway and found it, unsurprisingly, unfulfilling -- just like everything else in life.
Adding to Tom's misery is the recent suicide of his fiancée Brenda. He feels hopelessly guilty and is just going through the motions of holding down a job and pursuing an education. Mostly he wants to distract himself with video games and escape from this going-nowhere existence. Tom easily represents thousands of others in our world.
Of course, for the fantastical element of the story, the Devil, Satan himself, wins the auction for Tom's soul. I enjoyed the portrayal of Satan in this story. He seems just as discontented as Tom, plugging along from one tedious damnation to the next. I liked how he cheered himself up by sending out spam emails and computer viruses. When Satan comes to collect Tom's soul, Tom is stunned by the surreal presence of Satan in his living room. He focuses on the weird detail that Satan is carrying a Starbucks cup. This makes sense to me. Starbucks certainly pours a hellish brew.
Readers will be surprised that The Devil's Bidding actually has an upbeat ending that was quite heartwarming. Overall, I only have one criticism of this short story. I was annoyed by the detail that Tom had a Saturday morning college class the day after Black Friday. I know colleges have Saturday classes, but not usually on Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe some do? It's just a trifling detail and does not really take away from the enjoyment of the story. Some readers might not even notice it.
Download The Devil's Bidding at Decadent Publishing. I gladly recommend this short story and was pleased to have read it.