Monday, September 24, 2018

#ReviewTour #Amazon #Goodreads #DarkFantasy - Pandemonium by Sean Farley

Title: Pandemonium
Author: Sean Farley
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Published: September 9, 2018

Jackson Armstrong is blessed with an extraordinary memory and a young son who loves him. He is also cursed with a compulsion to gamble that has cost him nearly everything. While chasing another big win, Jackson is killed in a car theft gone wrong and finds himself trapped in Pandemonium, a hellish, urban netherworld where demons rule over man.

Before long, Jackson begins having visions of a mysterious portal. Convinced his visions are the key to escaping Pandemonium and returning home to his son, Jackson forms an unlikely alliance with Lilith, an enigmatic demon who has an agenda all her own. As the two are relentlessly pursued by an evil older than time itself, they must navigate their way across a brutal, fantastical landscape and find the portal before it closes forever.

Pandemonium is a dark fantasy adventure that will take readers to the depths of a richly imagined hell unlike any they have experienced before.

Jackson normally played Mississippi stud poker on Tuesdays, but the first few hands had been a bust out, and he was down to nothing before noon. He was about to leave the Greektown Casino altogether when he heard a slot siren whistle its jackpot theme song throughout the place. There had to be four hundred slot machines on the first floor alone, and most people wouldn’t have bothered trying to locate the exact slot the siren was mounted on. But most people weren’t Jackson.
He went row by row, section by section, through the Hee Haw slots, the Dukes of Hazard slots, the A-Team slots, the Game of Thrones slots, the Wild Amigos slots, and the Fallen Angels slots, until he pinpointed the source of the siren. The name of the winner was Invaders from Planet Moolah, and it had just paid off two hundred bucks on a single quarter play to an eighty- five-year-old man. The median age of an afternoon slots player was roughly eighty seven, which meant that the winner of this jackpot was actually a young buck. Jackson knew that if he looked at the slots section from above, he’d see an ocean of bald heads and cotton candy-colored hair parked in front of each slant-top, blazing through their social security just as fast as their checks could be converted into quarters.
He knew enough not to play right away. (Lesson learned on Friday, November 18, 1990, 3:47 p.m., at age ten, when Dad says “One payoff does not a loose machine make. Bide your time.”) So over the next ninety-three minutes, Jackson hung back and watched as the Invaders from Planet Moolah slot paid out two separate jackpots to two different residents of death’s waiting room. Sure, the jackpots were low-money returns, but it was clear to him now that this wasn’t an anomaly. This slot was hot. None of the jackpots the machine gave out were the big one—the $500,000 grand prize advertised in big block letters on top of the machine’s candle—but Jackson was convinced that it was only a matter of time. It was going to pay out huge, and it was going to pay out to him. All he had to do was come up with the money. He rifled through his pockets over and over, praying that he would find a crumpled wad of cash, but knowing deep down that he wouldn’t.
Jackson cursed under his breath and bit the inside of his cheek. He didn’t even have a quarter to feed the slot. He looked up through the casino’s glass doors and saw a small shop across the street with the word PAWN printed across a dirty awning. The neon OPEN sign was lit, but the P had gone out. It flashed O EN over and over. He moved toward the broken sign like a bug drawn to a zapper.
The train’s whistle—a human mandible mounted on the cab’s roof—sounded, and the glass doors on the locomotive snapped open. Jackson looked back to the Guard, who wore the biggest shit-eating grin he’d ever seen.
“Look, I can just take one of the boxcars. Just open one of the boxcars—” Jackson stammered, stricken. He didn’t see the long, spiked tail that flailed out of the train, but he felt it when it wrapped around his ankle and pulled him off of his feet, smacking his head on the surface of the platform with a loud thump.
And as the stars and the spots faded from his vision, Jackson remembered the first time he’d ever been on a train. (November 28, 1987, age 7, Amtrak 202 to Chicago with Dad. Hiding from the people who kept coming to the house asking about money. Learned five card stud on the trip and won fifty cents from Dad. Full house, threes over sixes. Dad said “…And that’s how an Armstrong plays cards.”)
The tail dragged Jackson toward the locomotive. He saw his guard wave to him as it pulled him inside and the doors slammed shut. He lay on the bare floor of the cab. There was no light at all, the interior blacker than the deepest part of the Indian Ocean, and a smell like sour milk filled his lungs. The tail unwrapped itself from his leg and receded to the front of the locomotive, where Jackson could barely make out a lumpy silhouette.
Jackson made it to his feet and tried to steady himself, but his quivering knees were having none of that cockamamie bravery shit. He tried to force his eyes to adjust to the darkness faster, implored his pupils to dilate more fully, but they weren’t taking orders from him, and would open in their own sweet-ass time.
He imagined the stomach acid leaking out of the Swiss cheese holes in his gut, and he could almost hear his ulcer talking to him: “You thought losing money on a slot machine was bad? Brother, I’m gonna show you what bad is.”
“Hello?” Jackson called out to the silhouette.
It snorted, with a sound that would have made Jackson piss himself if there had been anything in his bladder.
“I don’t want any trouble,” he said. “I really don’t.”
The silhouette moved toward him, making a kind of skittering noise as it crossed the floor. He backed away from it, into the rear of the cab, but it moved closer still. And now Jackson’s pupils got with the program, making him wish sincerely that they hadn’t.
The silhouette belonged to some kind of eight-legged beast. It was seven feet tall and easily the size of a Clydesdale, like the ones they ran at Hazel Park.
The thing skulked nearer and he could make out that the creature, this Pecado thing, had the legs and torso of a gray bodied tarantula, and that each of its eight legs ended in a human-looking hand—but with five rust-colored spikes where the fingers and thumb should be. He didn’t even notice that he’d stopped breathing ninety seconds before.
The Pecado finally brought its face, which resembled that of an albino man, close to Jackson’s. The intensity of the sour milk stink it exuded made his eyes water fiercely.
He saw the thing’s tail wrap around a lever of bone near the front of the train.
The Pecado smiled at him, then hissed at him, its open mouth full of tiny brown teeth. Finally, it wrapped two of its legs around Jackson, pulled him tight, and kissed him hard. Jackson could feel the beast’s tongue auger into his mouth and down his throat like a screw. His legs
gave out again—he was surprised they’d lasted as long as they had—and he dropped to his knees.

The tail yanked on the lever, and the Express screamed away from the Holding Pen platform and into the night.

Sean Farley is an author living in Detroit, Michigan. "Pandemonium" is his debut novel. He received his master's degree in English from Wayne State University. He has also written for The Detroit News.


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