Bali Rai has already produced some impressive work for teenagers, here he moves into the realm of Urban Fantasy set in a literally hellish future; unnamed powerful people wishing to keep the poor oppressed and scant resources for themselves found a way to release demonic hordes upon this world. Twenty five years on in the aftermath Humanity is divided into The Wanted; those who summoned demons and their privileged communities and the Unwanted; folk who subsist in thrall to produce goods for the Wanted and when useless a source of food, The Hunted, for their demon overlords. Amongst the Unwanted though there is a resistance.
The book starts off in Fire City home to Unwanted with a first person narrative as seen through the eyes of a driven teenage resistance fighter Martha who during a visceral battle with demons to save Hunted meets an enigmatic newcomer and contemporary Jonah; Martha is no slouch at killing lesser demons but this arrival is swifter and with better weaponry. There is an instant attraction which forms one of the plots in this many layered story.
Add to this a number of well portrayed characters. As examples; of the Resistance, mentor Mace a larger than life Father-figure; bitter and insecure Aron, Oscar and his gentle giant boyfriend Tyrell; amongst the collaborators Martha's snivelling step-father Mayor of Fire City and his brutal nominally bodyguard Stone, whose actual motivations are never truly made clear.
As for the demons these portrayed without whimsical traits or sardonically humorous asides, they are ugly, vicious, cruel and basically, well evil, you'll cheer every time one gets taken down, the lesser ones needing no more than a good old fashion blade to the vitals.
The narrative centres around not just the constant battle for survival of The Unwanted, but the motivations of Jonah and his catalytically dangerous actions which transmorph Survival in to Fight-Back. Nothing though is simple here; there are betrayals, surrenders, revelations and very oblique, short but compelling views into the world of The Wanted. This is woven into a fast, action driven, often gory and very unsettling tale, into which I was drawn very quickly. So much so that suddenly I noticed Martha was no longer around, and next time she appears being portrayed in Third Person, moving from Centre Stage to one of many interacting characters as we move to the very apocalyptic ending.
It would not be fair to go into more detail of the tale as that would give rise to spoilers. Suffice it to say this is a very good read for adults and teenagers alike by the nature of its description, concept of a horrific future and intelligent use of language and situations, even if as the DVD cases might say `This contains strong language, sexual references, and scenes of explicitly violent nature'.
There is also lots for discussion here. Has the author written a straightforward horrific fantasy or is this a metaphorical warning of the danger of using up the world's resources? Are these real demons or personifications of the potential greed of Global Capitalism? Are the teenagers future warriors or symbolic for the alienated and disaffected in our current society? As they used to say; `Discuss'
If I judge this by the number and nature of the loose ends the writer may be lining up at least one follow up volume, in which case I will be certainly watching out for it.