Beware the Devil's Hug has been written so skillfully that it almost reads itself. The chapters are brief, which makes this book a comfortable read. Marvin's writing style has an economy of words that doesn't muddle the reading experience. Any page will exhibit textbook examples of how to write, which makes this book a big plus for anyone interested in technique.
Storywise this book also has what it takes to please most readers. The lengthy cast of characters is presented so cleanly that it's easy to keep track of who's who in the story. The storyline is well-paced with a good balance of tension and breathing room. I didn't do a scientific measurement, but it seemed to me that Hugs is about 75% dialogue--good natural-flowing dialogue that allows for a fluidity of the reading experience. The reader is put in the middle of every scene as it unfolds.
Beware the Devil's Hug is a story for our times as it deals with relevant issues that could have been taken right out of this morning's newspaper. The story centers around a mysterious old homeless man named Iam. Initially repulsive to everyone he encounters, Iam has a power in his hug that cures disease, addiction, and hatred and allows the recipients of those hugs to see the world from an entirely new perspective. The Old Man becomes romantically involved with a young crack-addicted prostitute whom he cures and redeems with his hug. Iam also becomes involved with an organization that has been founded to bring the religions of the world together in peaceful agreement. Throughout the course of book, this novel addresses important issues including child abuse, gangs, and terrorism. The story crescendos into an interesting twist in its conclusion.
And now here comes the part of this review that is somewhat difficult for me. I don't really like to be negative, but my extreme subjectivity concerning certain aspects of this novel compels me to express these partly as a caveat for some similar minded readers and partly to address some of my own conflicted feelings about issues I've thought about in my own writing. So please bear in mind that the following is a matter of personal preference and belief.
Firstly, I'd like to warn any easily offended readers that there is profanity used and there are fairly graphic sex scenes described in Beware the Devil's Hug. In some of the earlier tour stops Marvin has made this point, but I wanted to bring it up again in case any of my readers missed this. I would not want someone to buy this book on my recommendation without knowing this from the outset--this book is rated "R". By the same token I would not want to discourage anyone from reading the book because of this as long as they don't have a problem with this adult rating.
In another tour stop Marvin said, "my books would offend the stiff, narrow minded and prudish." Believe me, I know all the words and I've seen plenty of things in my life and read some very graphic writings and I'm not too easily shocked by much of anything. However, that doesn't mean I want to read it now and by no means would I attribute my preference to being narrow-minded, prudish, or anything of that nature.
I've addressed this issue at other times. I lean toward the idea that excess profanity and graphic sex can be distracting in literature if these things are not the main focus of the message that the writer wants to convey. Don't get me wrong: Marvin's novel is not bursting at the seams with these things, but what is there still distracted me. This is an issue I've struggled with in my own writing and I have tried to take a more subtle approach. I welcome any additional opinions about this matter.
The second issue I have with Beware the Devil's Hug concerns my own conflicting beliefs concerning the story itself. I don't want to say anything here that will act as a spoiler, but I disagreed with some of the theological premises as I understood them. And perhaps theology is the wrong word to be using here, but as I was reading I kept hearing John Lennon's "Imagine" playing in my head. I really do like this song, but as I've grown older I've come to have a distaste for what Lennon's song lyrics represent to me.
The ideas presented in Hugs conceptually sound beautiful and idealistic and will probably appeal to many people, but they are out of line with my personal theology--I think. Perhaps I missed something as I was reading or maybe I'm just creating a greater complexity than should be present, but as I was reading I was thinking that the story was going in a different direction than where I thought it ended up. Then again, I could read something different into the ending and interpret that it comes to a conclusion more like I was expecting. My question that I do not recall seeing any explanation for is what is the significance of the book's title--Beware the Devil's Hug. I wish I didn't come across with such abiguity here, but I don't want to give away the ending.
Sorry if my rambling digrression took this review into the realms of commentary and reflection, but I think that this is also an indicator of a book that is well worth reading. For me, if a book hasn't made me think and doesn't stay with me long after I've read it, then it is merely mindless diversion. When I read I want to be entertained and this book entertains in a grand fashion. However, I also want to stimulate my thinking and perhaps learn something. I'm not sure what I've learned yet, but Beware the Devil's Hug did stimulate my mind and I continue to ponder the possibilities that the story suggests. When a book stays with you after you've read it, you've gotten your money's worth.
Buy Beware the Devil's Hug from Amazon .
Be sure to visit todays stop on the Virtual Hugs Tour:
Helen Ginger http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/ 10/28/10
And then the final stops of the tour:
Lacresha Hayes http://learntofeelpretty.blogspot.com/ 10/29/10
Kissie http://justkissie.com/ 10/30/10