It is a fascinating human characteristic the ability to instantly change one’s priorities, or rather, to instantly adapt as they are altered by circumstance. I think it’s both an indication of our natural flexibility and our true insignificance – simply kelp swaying as the tide demands.
The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp (A Demon’s Story) is the follow up novel to Michael Siemsen’s A Warm Place to Call Home, a novel I reviewed last summer and greatly enjoyed. I was thrilled when Mr. Siemsen offered me the second novel in exchange for my honest review. Don’t tell him, but he lost a sale: I’d planned on buying it. I loved the first one and was eager for the second.
In Siemsen’s universe, demons come to be when a soul that should be shuffling off the mortal coil sticks around instead but without memories of what it is or why it is. This new demon is irresistibly drawn to move into the already inhabited bodies of other people. As a result, demons move from host to host, using them and discarding them, and sometimes destroying them in the process.
Samuel wants nothing more than to live the normal life he’s built around his job, good friend, and girlfriend. As demons go, he’s really pretty boring. But Samuel is also consumed by the need to understand more about what it means to be a demon. When he finally meets another of his kind, the cozy, borrowed life he’s built begins to unravel.
The novel is a prequel, but you could read the books in any order and appreciate both of them. Like the first book in the series, it’s straight up good storytelling and chock full o’ twists and turns that you’ll never see coming. The books are similar in that they explore the nature of being human through the observations of the demon, but they come at it from different directions. Samuel is a moral demon, unlike the amoral Frederick of the first novel.
Additionally, unlike many current books in the “demon” genre, the author isn’t intent on providing the reader with the equivalent of a demon action flick with some kinky sex thrown in. Author Siemsen’s novels contain shrewd observations of human nature along with finely crafted plotting. However, if you are squeamish about discussions of out-of-the-ordinary sexual behavior in your reading, even when they are integral to the plot, this may not be the right novel for you.
Once the book gets rolling, it *really* rolls. In terms of the ability to take the reader by surprise, The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp ends up kicking the first book’s butt, so please read my criticism below in that context. Overall, it was one heck of an enjoyable read, but I’m giving it 4.25 stars instead of the 5 I gave to the first one.
For me, what made it a marginally weaker (but still very enjoyable book) was that the beginning of the novel was a little slow, focused on building the history of Samuel’s character through a series of disconnected lives, and that focus went on just a shade too long. As it turns out, this history is utterly essential for full enjoyment of the book, but I personally found Samuel to be just a little too nice to be interesting, and my attention eventually wandered as I questioned if the backstory was going to lead to anything other than the description of a series of possessions.
Fortunately, before my interest in the story lagged so much that I put the book down, the true story jumped screaming out of the background and took me for one heck of a ride. While the action of the book doesn’t kick off immediately, don’t be impatient like I was. I guarantee you’ll be glad that you stuck with it. I ended up staying up late and reading the book in one sitting once I was engaged. It’s definitely a book I would have been more than happy to pay for.
You can purchase a copy of The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp (A Demon’s Story) in Kindle format on Amazon.com for $3.99. The book is also available from iTunes and many other online retailers in both ebook and paperback format.