cover image Inside Man

Inside Man

K.J. Parker. Tordotcom, $13.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-78614-2

Nothing goes quite right for the snarky, charming demon narrating this oppressively bleak fantasy from Parker, his second set in the monarchy-dominated, demon-infested world of Prosper’s Demon. The unnamed demon, once a top field agent in Hell’s endless bureaucracy, has been reclassified as “officially fragile” and reassigned to the lighter duty of tempting monks to slip up while reciting their prayers. The narrator’s fragility is the result of years of excruciating torture at the hands of a brutal and powerful exorcist, whom the narrator possessed from when the boy was a fetus until age 17. Following a surprise reunion with the exorcist, the narrator is offered an unpleasant new assignment: he can work together with the exorcist to orchestrate a possession on which the entire divine Plan rests, or consign himself to an eternity of mindless desk duty. The distinctive voice is a bright spot as the plot meanders through an endless series of flashbacks, musings, and asides. The supporting cast, meanwhile, remains largely undeveloped and unsympathetic throughout. Fans of book one will appreciate getting to see things from the demon’s perspective this time around, but there’s not much else here to keep the pages turning. [em](June) [/em]