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Maze by JM McDermott


Dante Alighieri's Inferno, as the one third of The Divine Comedy taught to the entire universe as a mausoleum of Roman culture and a requiem to orthodoxy, provides the schematic for a Hell that has its own dimensional space. By the time Marlowe penned his Doctor Faustus in the Elizabethan era, damnation was well on its way to becoming the individual's struggle with the temptations of evil, or turned into surrealist metaphors by authors like Alexander Lernet-Holenia. Contemporary American authors, being a particularly crass species, seem to favor the protagonist as cowboy, whether working for or against Lucifer.

With his fantasy novel Maze, available for purchase this month by Apex Publications, J.M. McDermott attempts to give fantasy readers a bit of both, Hell as a corporeal reality, and the characters within it who suffer extreme duress in an environment that defies perception, whether to a scientist like Maia who crash lands in this maze and rather too conveniently remembers exceedingly little of her past life, or Joseph, a Texan who remembers a little too much. There is also Maia's Julie, who has only ever known the village in the maze where she was born.

McDermott succeeds, with a staccato diction, in offering readers a sense of dislocation and obscure mysteries of sometimes harsh transformation, for those with an appetite for this kind of horror fantasy. Why the devil has his own sub-genre in commercial entertainment, however, is almost as mystifying as McDermott's constantly shifting landscapes. Perhaps it is a matter of convenience, or a way to cope with the suffering of mental illness, which is also a common conceit through which Satan manifests presence. Heaven forbid that such satirical subversion becomes trite, thiis despite the publisher's claim that McDermott pushes boundaries. Astute readers may suspect otherwise.