30 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 19

The spy thriller becomes an urban fantasy, in The Devil You Know Chapter 19.

Jack's nature revealed!  Finally!  And the biggest problem with labelling The Devil You Know as urban fantasy was the nature of the spoiler.  Until now, there's nothing explicit about the supernatural.  Sure, there were some odd happenings, but I didn't call attention to them.  Ione calls out Gemma having car problems at the end of Chapter 8, but even then, there's nothing said about how the car was disabled.

I did leave a few hints, though.  Some were just turns of phrases, but others were done with purpose.
Chapter 10:
"Speak of the devil."  I wanted to put the idea out there that Jack is a devil.  At this point, there's no reason to assume that Jack is one, just roguish.
Jack learned to fly in Gander.  This was to hint at his age.  Gander was used for training pilots during the First World War, and was also a refuelling point for trans-Atlantic flights.  Jack learned to fly in a biplane during WWI.

Chapter 12:
"No one has ever accused me of not having wealth and taste."  The Rolling Stones song, "Sympathy for the Devil" opens with the line, "Please allow me to introduce myself/I'm a man of wealth and taste."  Jack does have wealth, as seen with his private jet and the kopi luwak coffee.  He also prefers refinement, as seen in his hotel choices.  Again, the line was meant to place the idea of Jack being a devil in readers' heads.

Chapter 13:
The decadent coffee.  Jack chose that blend on purpose to tempt Ione.

Chapter 14:
Jack tempted Ione into having a one night stand against her better judgement.  That's what Jack does for a living, tempts people.

Ben's nature was hinted at, too, but since he and Karen were offscreen for most of the story, there's not much to go on.  Gemma did bash Karen over the head with her pistol.  That act should have left Karen with a concussion and in the hospital.  Ben healed her.

Given the reveal, it might be worth going back and checking out some of Mara's scenes.  There's a reason why she turned into Ms Fanservice.  Temptation demons are always on the job, though Mara is moonlighting a little.  The worst she did was tempt Ione with chocolate.

I didn't work out the theology.  I am using handwavium to distract readers.  Angels, devils, and demons exist.  Gemma has a Valkyrie in her family tree somewhere.  Some of the ideas were inspired by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, a comedy about the Apocalypse.  Other ideas came from Linda Poitevin's The Grigori Legacy series.  The main takeaways from both is that angels are frightening, humanity has potential, and the Final War between Heaven and Hell isn't a sure thing.  With the latter, if the War was a given for either side, it'd have been fought by now.  Expanding from just Christian beliefs into myths was me, though, and something I would explore again with dba LTV Paranormalists in 2016.

So, did the reveal work?  That's up to the readers to decide.  Let me know in the comments, please.

Friday, meeting the other players, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 20.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, going for broke with remaking Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, the reveal works, I'm not so sure the foreshadowing does. Once you know, a lot of pieces start snapping into place, with things working in retrospect as well as going forwards. There was no point where I was rolling my eyes and saying "oh come on", rather, I was nodding and saying OH, that's interesting, what else fits in here. However, it felt like it came out of the blue.

    Chapter 10: A turn of phrase is clever looking back, but isn't going to stand out. Gander to me is a town in Newfoundland, I figured Jack had relatives there (maybe someone with more history would spot it?).
    Chapter 12/13: Jack's a rich jerk. Rich jerks like showing off, unintentionally or otherwise. I don't know my Rolling Stones.
    Chapter 14: Jack seems to want Ione to loosen up.
    Ben: No one referenced concussions (to my recollection), and honestly Gemma's seemed pretty ineffectual so far. Also, given Gemma's whole thing is getting at Ione through Karen, why would she put Karen in the hospital and out of play?? (Gemma's seriously the weak link in the story.)

    Part of it is that religion has not been a thing at all to this point. I don't think you necessarily need (or want) a whole theology - keeping it vague works in your favour in allowing things to conform to more than just Christianity, I feel. But Ione could have talked to Mara about belief systems (Ione's sister's wedding could have been an entry point), Jack could have mentioned not wanting to go into a church or been annoyed by people crossing themselves, Karen could have been religious (or an atheist, that'd add fuel to her annoyance with Ben)... or even more "supernatural" incidents could have been researched on the web. As it is, it feels like this was dropped into our laps.

    Anyway, more good things:
    -The fact that it was the angel doing the provoking, that was neat. And that it was Ben's superior, so he can't help much. And that they can't even name "Mr. Warehouse" (heh).
    -Karen's irritation at Ben feels on par. I do think she'd be more upset at him not talking her out of staying at home? Rather than him putting her into a situation with a literal devil? (Her loyalty to Ione wasn't even remarked on, aside from her not wanting her friend to face things alone, but that was after they knew.) Whatever, I like that Ben's not a "perfect angel".
    -Yup, some of Mara's mannerisms do make sense in retrospect. (I think Karen wondered about Ione and Mara. Is my ship back on? ;) )
    -Even some of Jack's actions against Gemma make more sense in retrospect, nice to get the shout-out explanation for why he didn't kill her, etc. (He couldn't get Mara to lock Gemma in a closet though?)
    -I don't know your origin books first-hand, but I did see early episodes of "Supernatural", and I feel like there could be unintentional callbacks there too. (In fact didn't the characters mention the show at one point? I might be thinking of something else.)

    All in all, nice reveal there. We'll have to see if the crazy angel is "winging it" (ha ha).