First published back in August of 2005, Stuart Vowell’s novel ‘The Lucifer Wars’ formed the author’s self-published debut publication . The novel is an ambitious post-apocalyptic tale that draws heavily from aspects of the Bible’s ‘Book of Revelation’, to create this final desperate struggle for humanity.
Humanity has awoken to find itself on the verge of extinction. The final apocalypse that was prophesised in the Book of Revelation has come thirty years early. And now all of a sudden, life as it had once been known, has shifted itself into a final desperate struggle for survival. Great unforgiving plagues have ravaged the landscapes, packs of rabid dogs rampage through the settlements, killing and feasting on those they encounter.
For those that have survived this far, the world is now a very frightening and dangerous place. Chances are improved by locating fellow survivors and banding together through strength in numbers. Those that do manage to meet up, barricade themselves in homes and churches for protection against the ravenous dogs that seem to be everywhere.
But there is much worse coming their way. Of the survivors, Reverend Thomas Arnforth is about to have his faith put to the ultimate test. Alas, so many lives will fall at the hands of the death that haunts these desperate times. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have arrived. Pestilence has brought humanity to near extinction. Famine, War and Death are there to finish it all. For Lucifer’s days are upon us. And now is the time for the Great War, prophesised in the Book of Revelation, to finally commence.
Angels and demons will battle it out across the desolate landscape that was once home to mankind. And in the thick of it all, those few survivors left must choose where they stand and when to fight. For this is the war that will end all wars. This is the ultimate fight of good versus evil. This is the final fight for ultimate survival…
Vowell leaps straight into his manically busy and elaborately multi-layered tale with barely a minute spent in gauging the novel’s premise and setting the scene. The vast array of characters that play out their individual roles in this possibly overly complex storyline, are each quickly introduced, with little time spent on any real degree of characterisation. For such a character rich storyline, this is a considerable let down for the depth and warmth of the tale. The characters are portrayed as mere pawns in this undoubtedly epic story. No emotional or endearing connection is ever really established between reader and any of the characters, leaving the story too much of a soulless show for such an elaborate piece of apocalyptic fiction. Surprisingly still is the inclusion of the character of Steve, who is a central and pivotal character, written in the first-person perspective, whose own important role is never explored on any real emotional level. This in itself is such a missed opportunity, which could have brought a much needed gripping and impactful dimension to the tale.
The action is almost non-stop from the outset. With the story jumping between an array of storylines, each one involving a host of characters, the resulting complexity of the storyline unfortunately becomes a little haphazard at times. However, Vowell manages to keep his foot firmly on the accelerator as he pushes forwards with the relentless attacks, savage deaths and the desperate measures taken in the hope of survival.
The wild packs of dogs provide the most enthralling and exciting of threats in the tale. Their relentless single-minded savagery in itself draws the reader into the storyline; delivering page after page of edge-of-the-seat suspense.
The more impactful presence of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in particular the dominating role of Pestilence, shifts the novel to a whole new level. These predominant figures of evil are portrayed in a similar way to J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Ringwraiths’ in his cult classic ‘Lord Of The Rings’ (1954) trilogy. Indeed, their somewhat loose descriptions seem all too familiar; clumsily mirroring many aspects of these foreboding faceless figures.
One of the more detrimental aspects of the novel is the serious lack of any editing. Grammatical errors litter the entirety of the text. From the very beginning of the novel, the reader has to struggle through the huge blocks of text, all of which lacks any paragraphs to help break up these daunting, text heavy pages. Full stops are also few and far between; instead their usage is incorrectly replaced with semi-colons; commas being just a distant memory. This may all sound a bit trivial, but it does equate to a much tougher read, which simply makes the immersion of the reader into the storyline unfortunately all the more difficult.
With that said, as the story progresses, so the text does slowly become all the more readable. Paragraphs become more frequent, and sentences start to shrink to a more manageable length. However, this only goes to further show the amateurish nature of the novel at hand; as if the tale is a work in progress, with the author gradually learning the art of writing as you progress through the novel.
With a good two-thirds of the tale under the readers’ belt, the novel takes on another dramatic shift in premise, this time upping the ante on the epic status of the war between good and evil. Vowell doesn’t hold back one bit here, throwing in every single angel and archangel that ever appeared in the bible. The battle quickly becomes too colossal for the author to deliver with any real ability at storytelling. Instead, the reader is subjected to a maelstrom of confusing and unfathomable scenes of warfare. Wave after wave after wave of fighters do battle, each one named and then in the same breath forgotten. The point to all this? It’s certainly an epic finale with perhaps the most dramatic premise possible. But sadly, the whole battle lacks any passion, any wordsmanship, or any impact. The vast battling armies are just reduced to pawns on a chessboard for all the reader cares.
Sadly, this is the recurring problem with the novel. Characters come and go with the blink of an eye. None of these characters had any emotional impact on the reader. None so much as showed any real characteristics for the reader to latch on to. Once again, they are all just pawns on a board.
With all the problems said and done, Vowell’s ‘Lucifer Wars’ still remains an exciting, enjoyable and somehow captivating read. Yes the reader needs to work hard at the novel to reap its rewards. But there are rewards there. And with a little perseverance and a heart for apocalyptic fiction, the novel is sure to bring a smile to many a readers face.
The novel runs for a total of 343 pages and includes an additional 2 page Authors Note.
© DLS Reviews