The premise is a familiar one in speculative literature. Beneath and beyond the mundane world, supernatural forces poise themselves to break the balance and bring chaos and destruction to the earth. Most people cannot see the truth, nor do they really want to. Devoid of connection to the mystical, most people are content struggling through the grey world of corporal materialism. But some people are connected to the mystical, and the actions of these few can impact the fate of the world. This familiar, yet still profound story concept, is told anew in Realmshift, by Alan Baxter.
Specifically, the story revolves around a man who makes a deal with Satan in exchange for immortality, then figures out how to use ancient blood magics and ritual murder to prevent Satan from collecting. But this is by no means a traditional Faustian morality tale, because the apparent good guys arenâ€™t interested in saving his soul, but insuring he keeps his end of the bargain to protect the Balance. The central protagonist, Isiah, is charged with insuring that Samuel fulfills his end of the bargain by destroying a creature in Central America that would in fact grant him his immortality before an angry Satan tracks down the magician and destroys him on principle.
The entire narrative reads like a tale told by some omniscient yet bored being, indifferent to the incredible tale it is telling. This is both the blessing and the curse of this book. While this state helps originally set the mood, it creates a plodding feeling as the story progresses, preventing the action from really taking shape. Description often comes across as the private muses of an emotionally detached person trying to remember emotions. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesnâ€™t. It also appears as if the author wanted to tell the story from the first person narrative, but decided not to, creating occasional awkward point of view situations.
Some readers may get lost or turned off with one of the other central notions in the book, that multiple gods and multiple worlds exist simultaneously, and that these gods require the faith of their followers to exist. Enter the idea of the Balance, which apparently, among other things, makes sure that the followers of various entities are able to keep their faith. Though the idea has been used countless times (one of the most notable being the Amber series by Roger Zelazny), it is rarely employed with such a strong inclusion of Judeo-Christian mythology. But get pass the idea of angels and devils working with and against entities from other religions, and there is an interesting tale in this book.
I found the book both entertaining and thought-provoking, however the complete concept behind the Balance never quite feels valid. The Balance, it seems, moves in mysterious waysâ€¦ways that are often convoluted, illogical, and forced in order to make the story work. On the first read, I enjoyed it immensely, but while rereading to write the review, inconsistencies in thought became obvious. Enjoy RealmShift the first time around as an interesting blend of speculative fiction and thriller, but donâ€™t think too much on it afterwards as it might spoil the final experience for you as a reader.