Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
by Massimo Marino
Paperback: 330 pages, October 5, 2012, ISBN-13: 978-1478347101
Like many apocalyptic stories this one has that magic yet awful moment when a protagonist (and in this case his wife and daughter) wake up to a normal day but rapidly realize they might be the only people left alive. We are then treated to a ‘how long will food, water, drugs, the internet, and electricity last. I love all that. For my own ARIA: Left Luggage I researched and experimented to get those aspects as right as I could. Most of those aspects of everyday life wouldn’t last as long as you’d think. For example what is known in the UK as Mains electricity even if powered by HEP and hence semi-automatic would fail within days if completely unmanned. The scenario painted by Massimo Marino in Daimones differs from mine, but that’s why each apocalyptic story is worth reading.
The moment when our protagonist, Dan, scares himself with the thought there maybe no one else in his home area – the French / Swiss border where his workplace at CERN is based (a refreshing different setting than the usual North American apocalyptic event) – is alive and fleetingly considers suicide, reminds me of a joke. (Note: I am notoriously irreverent when encountering anything serious) I recall a cartoon of the last man on Earth jumping off a skyscraper. On his way down, through an open window, he hears a phone ringing…
Besides the survival issues of looting for food, emergency equipment, avoiding feral dogs and worrying about his wife and daughter, Dan debates why his family have survived. In many ways that is the biggest puzzle. One could understand, or at least accept, that a hitherto unknown virus / biological agent / timed DNA trigger could wipe out all human beings overnight, but the survival of a handful is both intriguing and a clue. Two more clues are the title – Daimones – and the cover art. Dan cleverly sets up a facebook advert (like one I set up to sell ARIA but you need millions of hits to get a handful of sales) with the hope that internet servers will keep on chugging away and that other lonely survivors will use facebook to see if anyone else is using facebook to see if… you know what I mean. A good ploy. And they are not completely alone.
Searching for goods in Geneva and with two befriended German Shepherds nosing and listening on guard duty, they discover evidence of someone else. When they eventually make contact Dan is bowled over by her beauty and at last the reader is given a character description with her dark hair and light blue eyes. We never get to know what our three main characters look like – they could all be striking redheads, or have spiky blond hair and vertically challenged. We are given enough statistics to calculate Dan’s wife’s age (48) but we don’t know Dan’s age. I know Ernest Hemingway more-or-less refused to describe his main characters but he made up for it with his genius for other contexts. To not describe characters disenfranchises the reader from engaging more with the narrators. It is more difficult to identify with them. At least if the reader makes up their own descriptions, which they will, they are not disabused by contradiction later in the book – unless one of them looks in a mirror in books two or three!
The writing style flows well making it a page-turning easy read. Having the setting in the CERN area of the Swiss / French border is a big plus too.
There are touches of I Am Legend in here with leaving announcements they’d be in a certain place for an hour each day and there is ample tension and reasoning to appeal to any aficionado of apocalyptic novels. Maybe the pace is slowed too much in the exposition in the last section of the book but it would be too much a spoiler for me to discuss that now. I’ll give my views of the interesting way Massimo Marino explains the apocalypse in my review of Book Two. If you’re like me you’ll be relieved the revelation is not religious – as such, thank God.
The cover blurb describes Daimones as for the ‘thinking person’, which it is, but don’t panic; you don’t need a physics degree to enjoy Daimones, just an urge to live through the next apocalypse!
Massimo Marino’s twitter is at @Massim0Marin0
Geoff Nelder’s twitter is at @geoffnelder and his web http://geoffnelder.com
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