Devil's Den
by Jeff Altabef
Evolved Publishing

"The demons rumble in my head. They want blood, and they will not quiet over time. Either I’ll satisfy them, or they’ll drive me crazy."

In Altabef’s subtle dystopian thriller, Philadelphia is divided in the near future into districts based on class. Factions fight against injustice, and unruly gangs terrorize the streets. The narrator, Steven, is a scarred, unpredictable man with a propensity for violence who wrestles demons, both literal and figurative. He also believes the future is controlled by witches called The Fates. Upon returning to his birth city, he is summoned by his old friend Kate, with whom he shares a complicated history. He is surprised to learn of her daughter, Megan, who is now missing. Relying on military training and the aid of covert friends, Steven helps Kate traverse a dangerous, labyrinthian mission to save Megan.

Megan’s captivity at The Farm is perhaps the more compelling part of the novel where she quietly defies “Mother,” the leader of a religious-like cult who “glows with an ethereal light,” and is subjected to becoming an Angel. This transformation is meant to purge sins and prepare for the end of days in the battle between light and darkness. Megan willfully survives in any way possible as she plots her escape from the cult’s control.

Altabef’s engaging tale is both wild and wholly believable. His carefully developed plot is high with tension and intrigue. Characterization and dialogue are fairly general throughout, but the love-hate relationship between Steven and Kate is laden with sarcasm, while Megan is featured as a strong, heroic survivor. The author touches on familiar science fiction themes, such as wars between good and evil, dangers of an authoritarian society, apocalyptic fears, and the loss of control over our destiny. Interestingly, Altabef splits between first and third person narratives, both written in present tense, giving Steven and Megan’s stories an immediate feel. Overall, it’s an entertaining yarn for lovers of detective mysteries crossed with supernatural suspense.

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