Description from Goodreads.com:
“Sterling Davis has everything a man could want—a big house, a fancy car and more women than he can handle. But someone lurks in the shadows, waiting to take it all away, and when she does, he’ll have to face death and worse to get it all back.”
So this is my third Grant Palmquist book I’ve read and reviewed. The first book I read was A Song After Dark. Loved it. It was dark; it was disturbing; and it was brilliant. To this day when I think of Zach, it makes me shudder. The second book I read was Permanent Winter. This was the author’s foray into the supernatural. This tale about a world with vampires left me a little cold, but it did have some redeeming qualities. When I was contacted by the author about possibly reviewing Dirge, I was curious to see where this would fall and gladly said yes.
The brief description on Goodreads.com does not even begin to describe Sterling Davis’ life and death experiences. Excuse my language here, but in his real life, Sterling Davis is a dick—plain and simple. He lives life fast and easy. His motto is lots of money, fast cars, and even faster women. Of course, this lifestyle leads to his demise, and then the real fun (said tongue in cheek) begins. The reckoning.
At the end of his hedonistic existence, Sterling finds himself in a sort of purgatory. He is met by a guide named Moloch who accompanies him on the first leg of his journey. He explains to Sterling that this is his one and only chance at redemption. He must pass the test to be reborn or spend an eternity in Hell. At some point, Moloch leaves him and the rest is up to him.
After some time alone, the last part of Sterling’s journey is spent with his soul mate—a woman he’d never met during his lifetime. The pair must face demons, lost souls, strange animals, and challenges of hunger and thirst. They teeter on the brink of determination and despair. The reader really has no idea which way it will go. And as a reader with previous experience of Palmquist’s novels, I knew it could go either way. This is not an author of the “happy ending.”
As with all of his books, Palmquist is very adept at depicting the gruesomeness of characters and their actions. He is a master at creating the mood. Even now as I am writing this review, I feel the heaviness and the filth and grime of this in-between world.
There is one thing about the story that seemed incongruous. Sterling’s journey is about redemption. It is a time of self-discovery—where he is supposed to learn all of things that are completely opposite of his existence on Earth such as love, selflessness, gratitude. In essence, all that is good. And yet every trial and tribulation he faces wreaks of death and destruction and requires that he fight and kill in order to be saved. In my mind, those are not actions that should be rewarded. I kept wondering if his actions were going to really pay off in the end, or would he learn that there was a different way to win without the violence.
So in the end, what happens? Does the devil get his soul or does he earn the right to try again? I invite you to read it and find out for yourself. While A Song After Dark still remains my favorite Grant Palmquist novel, I liked Dirge better than Permanent Winter.