When Heaven and Hell Collide: Angels & Demons Novel Smackdown!

Authors love to salt their work with existing religious elements. Angels and demons are two such elements that pop up in countless genre tales, from novels to comic books to movies. These heavenly or ex-heavenly beings run the gamut from being shining protectors of humanity to red-horned beasts of despair to supernatural assassins to bumbling klutzes with wings. Yet whatever forms they take, they are often at the center of solid conflict, which makes for great stories.

So, polish your halos and sharpen your horns as we throw another batch of books into the fray.

A KISS BEFORE THE APOCALYPSE (The Remy Chandler Series, Book 1) – Thomas E. Sniegoski

THE RUNDOWN: This series started out in 2008, and now has four entries, the latest being A Hundred Words for Hate. The angel Remiel left Heaven a bit disillusioned, and has been on Earth ever since, wrapped in a cloak of humanity and trying to forget his angelic heritage. These days, “Remy” is a private investigator, handling the usual cases of stolen property and cheating husbands. Of course, the banality of his usual work is about to be broken up by some unusual and frightening encounters that draw up unwanted memories from his past.

THE CONTRAST: This story is, by turns, solid adventure and mystery, and provides both a heartwarming and tragic study of the nature of humanity. Angels (and demons) can be equally human as they are alien, and Sniegoski definitely has fun creating numerous fiction within both the angelic and demonic ranks. Despite their cultural stereotypes, even immortal beings can’t withstand the inevitability of change over the millennia.

NEVER KNEW ANOTHER (Dogsland Trilogy, Book 1) – J.M. McDermott

THE RUNDOWN: Here, the demons are the focus, both of the story and the protagonists. A pair of shapeshifters take on the forms of wolves in order to hunt down and burn out the stain of all demonspawn in the land. Their current targets are Rachel and Jona, lovers who have struggled through tormented lives and now seek a form of solace with each other.

THE CONTRAST: This is a multi-layered story, with one layer being the wolves hunting down the demonspawn, and another with the reader experiencing the memories of those they’re hunting. In Jona’s case, his demon taint is a thing he mostly ignores until he’s forced to use it for survival. For Rachel, she struggles to hide her curse in order to make something of a life for herself, having had to escape from one city to the next whenever she’s discovered.

GOOD OMENS – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

THE RUNDOWN: The end of the world is nigh! All that’s needed is the Antichrist to pop onto the scene. However, an angel and demon have become a bit too buddy-buddy of late, and also quite fond of comfy old Earth. Their attempts to sabotage Armageddon and the coming of the Four Horseman result in global hijinks and a race to determine the fate of a particular child’s soul.

THE CONTRAST: This is a bit of an older release that is now being developed into a four-part television series, much to the joy of countless fans. It was co-authored by two genre masters, and has received critical acclaim many times over the years. It has a largely humorous (dare I say, hilarious?) bent, thanks to Pratchett’s influence, while Gaiman can be felt in the established mythology that is twisted into something unique and truly special.

THE VERDICT

It might surprise you that I’m not recommending Good Omens hands down. The fact is, I’m betting most of you have already read it. So, while it’s an incredible book, let’s give the other two a chance in the spotlight.

The difficulty with determining a victor between Never Knew Another and A Kiss Before the Apocalypse is that they come in such different styles. Never Knew Another is both poetic and harsh, and the way it’s written lends to a meandering plot that might leave some wanting for more cohesion and conclusion (but for me, didn’t make the experience any less powerful).

I’m going to point you towards A Kiss Before the Apocalypse, in this case, as well as the rest of the series. It mixes so many wonderful elements–the mystery, the magic, the mythology, while also bringing strong emotion to the fore.

And maybe I’m just a sucker for a talking dog. (Read it. You’ll see what I mean.)