Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Dumbass Demon

The Dumbass Demon
by Gary Jonas
Recommended Ages: 15+

Brett Masters, a millennial slacker who doesn't particularly care about the powerful magic that runs in his blood, would just as soon have nothing to do with wizardry. But his father, who still hopes to see him make good on some of his potential, has figured out a way to give him a kick in the seat. The old man sends Brett a nuisance demon – a disgusting little red man whom, at first, only Brett can see – and gives him until, say, his sanity breaks to get rid of the little (BLEEP). All Brett has to do – and only Brett can do – is make Kevin, as the demon is known, go away. Just give him a little magic push, and poof! But can he? Or perhaps more to the point, will he?

Brett is so lazy that he can't seem to manage this, even with Kevin making himself a pain in every way imaginable. Exhibit one: The demon wakes him up one morning by peeing on him. I should probably have bleeped that out, too. In case you haven't noticed, this book, and really the whole series, calls for a stiff Adult Content Advisory, and an Occult Content Advisory to boot. But Brett has bigger problems. A beautiful singer, actually a Siren out of Greek mythology, needs his help. The god Apollo is trying to enslave her, so that he can use her backup vocals to create a hit pop song that will convert listeners around the world into his worshipers. It's not just that he won't take no for an answer. He can actually conjure a contract out of thin air, with her signature on it.

Something between hubris and horniness propels Brett to try to help her, even though there's really no way to stop Apollo from doing whatever he wants. As punishment for his disrespect (Brett's second-best superpower, after napping), Apollo enslaves him, too, and dangles a tease of removing the vampire curse from his friend Michael in return for playing bass on his single. Together, this band of supernatural misfits (I'm using the word "band" here in the pop-music sense) puts together a hit single and an almost equally huge B-side. But being part of Apollo's entourage comes with deadly danger, as if the free will of the entire human race and Brett's drive to be a success or (more likely) failure on his own terms aren't high enough stakes. Poor Brett has to grow a spine and fast. I mean, poor us.

In his latest adventure, Brett Masters shows his usual qualities, and thus becomes a less sympathetic and attractive character than ever. He even begins to realize how very unlikable he is, how very adept at losing friends and alienating people. Perhaps waking up to this truth is an important step for him. But it still doesn't immediately translate into being able to banish the demon, save the girl or stop the god. With a smart mouth and a willful stupidity that runs parallel to his essential laziness, he goes a long way toward losing even the reader's goodwill, so that taking pleasure in his discomfort and misfortunes becomes a key to enjoying this book. Full of gross-out shtick, evil humor and mostly music-related cultural references (including a Tom Lehrer song!), it's an entertaining tale in spite of its hero, offering just a hint of hope that he may show better qualities in the future – though perhaps not as soon as his dad would like.

This is the third "Half-Assed Wizard" novel of a four-book set that I've been reading on Kindle, since I got hooked in by a free offer on the first installment. You don't think I chose it for that cover art, do you? The other titles in the series are The Half-Assed Wizard, The Big-Ass Witch and The Lame-Assed Doppelganger. Gary Jonas is also the author of the Jonathan Shade, Kelly Chan and Hitman series as well as such novels as One Way Ticket to Midnight, Night Marshal, Pirates of the Outrigger Rift and Hell Hunter.

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