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The Devil's Workshop


Worth reading 😎

Starts as Peter Pan for adults, becomes progressively darker, ends in despair. Engagingly written, with complex characters; lacks unity.

The Devil's Workshop falls into the magical realism genre in two ways. There is the usual element of the marvelous treated as matter-of-fact (werewolves, witches, a god); and there is a jumble of Caribbean-like pasts mixing it across the landscape - plantations, slaves and redcoats, Red Indians, galleons and pirates. If there is a main thread to the narrative in the story of the separated lovers Tom and Katie it soon throws off branches and by-ways, darting from one catastrophe to another as the devil stirs the pot. What starts as an adventurous romp turns darker and darker, ending in cruelty, murder, rape, massacre and death.

The psychological twists that lead the characters to extremes are well-drawn - the torture of unrequited love, the self-indulgent vanity spawned by greed and ignorance, the desperate vacillation between rage and fear of the slave. If the philosophizing all characters indulge in at each turn of fortune is artificial, the impulses themselves are nicely portrayed. The language takes a little getting used to but then flows easily enough, and conveys the distance with which many of the characters engage with the action. They talk airily as they plot, kill or - in one case - are eaten.

The clue uniting this surreal landscape is that it is indeed the devil's workshop, with his hand in every evil, wandering the world in his broad-brimmed hat dispensing injustice and and encouraging bad deeds. So the devil wanders, and bad things are done, and the small bits of good are run over or come to nothing. People turn to active evil, or passive acceptance or clueless cooperation with evil - the one with as awful an outcome and as morally culpable as the other. It is for sure a widespread point of view, that this is a sinful world, doomed to folly. Is it one that needs repeating, or embodying in a long tale? That I'm not so sure of.

On reflection, it reads more as a series of vignettes than as a unified novel.

Reviewed by

I'm very well read in fantasy and sf (been reading these genres for over 50 years), have a degree and life-long interest in history and regularly contribute reviews to Amazon and other sites.


About the author

Donnally Miller has appeared in the pages of many magazines and anthologies. One of the most important new writers of science fiction, he is known for the vivid dreamlike quality of his prose. He resides in Florida with his wife, Bernice. view profile

Published on June 19, 2020

Published by Dreamy Moon Press

150000 words

Genre: Magical Realism

Reviewed by