Beware the Denticles in “Cry For the Demon”

May 8, 2020

Title: Cry for the Demon
Author: Julia Grice
Length: 397 Pages
Publisher: Warner Books
Publication Date: December 1980

CHECK PLUS: Interesting idea.
CHECK MINUS: Oh my dear lord.

OVERALL RATING: D

Let me preface this review by letting you know from the start that (1) this is an absolutely terrible book, and (2) in order for me to explain why it was so bad, there will be plenty of spoilers. I’m giving it two points to make it a D for very specific reasons: one being, admittedly, an interesting concept though executed very very poorly, and one more for holding my interest to read through to the end just to see how truly terrible it could get.

Got it? Good. Let’s unpack this awful mess.

The premise is very simple: a recently widowed woman takes her two teenage children to visit family in Hawaii to help pass the first holiday without their father and meets an enigmatic dive instructor who may be hiding a sinister secret. Sounds interesting, if a bit pulpy, but it’s an 80’s era Warner Books paperback so we know what we’re in for. Right? RIGHT? WRONG.

Major spoiler alert: Kam, the dive instructor, is an ancient Hawaiian shark god, and he wants to [bleep] her to death.

Yes. You know what that [bleep] means. I am not kidding. His long term goal is to [bleep] our heroine in the ocean while in his shark-form, rupturing all of her innards and then, THEN, on top of this horrifying mental image, upon scenting the inevitable blood in the water, go into a bad feeding frenzy and tear her limb from limb (after already having torn her notch to navel).

There is so, so much wrong with this novel. For starters, our heroine Ann is in her late thirties but also apparently a bombshell the likes of which no man has ever seen. Kam is enchanted with her. She is often described as looking similar in age and form to her sixteen year old daughter, she’s just that gorgeous. All other women pale in comparison to her stunning beauty — literally, because every other woman described in the novel is dowdy, slovenly, fat, and generally gross, particularly women of native Hawaiian descent, who seem to be walking stereotypes. Even Ann’s own cousin, who was once her very best bestie, is a fat, foul-mouthed drunk. Her cousin’s children are useless, spineless stoners, and her cousin’s husband is a boring, sullen slob. Everyone is awful except for Ann’s daughter Kristal (who is still not as hot as Mom), her son Buddy (does this child not have a real name?), and Kam, the shark-god-dive-instructor. I cannot stand when the novel’s plucky heroine has to be the best of the bestest, all men want her, all women want to be her, type of gal. It’s lazy writing and most likely author wish fulfillment. Get over yourself, lady.

There is so, so much wrong with this novel. For starters, our heroine Ann is in her late thirties but also apparently a bombshell the likes of which no man has ever seen. Kam is enchanted with her. She is often described as looking similar in age and form to her sixteen year old daughter, she’s just that gorgeous. All other women pale in comparison to her stunning beauty — literally, because every other woman described in the novel is dowdy, slovenly, fat, and generally gross, particularly women of native Hawaiian descent, who seem to be walking stereotypes. Even Ann’s own cousin, who was once her very best bestie, is a fat, foul-mouthed drunk. Her cousin’s children are useless, spineless stoners, and her cousin’s husband is a boring, sullen slob. Everyone is awful except for Ann’s daughter Kristal (who is still not as hot as Mom), her son Buddy (does this child not have a real name?), and Kam, the shark-god-dive-instructor. I cannot stand when the novel’s plucky heroine has to be the best of the bestest, all men want her, all women want to be her, type of gal. It’s lazy writing and most likely author wish fulfillment. Get over yourself, lady.

Not if you were the last shark-god on earth, man.
Not if you were the last shark-god on earth, pal.

Kam, our anti-hero shark-[bleep]ing wonder, is portrayed in a positive light for exactly one paragraph before it becomes obvious that yes, he is the bad guy. On the upside, his description is just vague enough that we can imagine him as Jason Momoa. Hot. Except for the shark part.

We learn through the story that Kam is a god, eons old, who is incredibly lonely and likes to lure ladies into the ocean where he can turn into his massive shark form and use his massive shark penis to copulate them to shreds. I have learned way too much about shark anatomy, my friends. Claspers. Denticles. Dear god, the denticles.

Among his powers as a deity, Kam can make a person’s body turn on them, until they are in a fit of madness, bleeding from every orifice, and slowly suffocating as their respiration starts to cease. He does this to both of Ann’s children before she realizes there’s a problem — which is interesting, because Buddy has reservations from the start (though that can be explained as not loving the hottie dive instructor movin’ in on his widowed mother) and Kristal is having nightmares every night, to the point where she is visibly ill, wetting herself, and waking up screaming. All Ann seems to register about these nightmares are how good she looks in her short, lacy nightgowns as she goes to her daughter’s side.

Among his powers as a deity, Kam can make a person’s body turn on them, until they are in a fit of madness, bleeding from every orifice, and slowly suffocating as their respiration starts to cease. He does this to both of Ann’s children before she realizes there’s a problem — which is interesting, because Buddy has reservations from the start (though that can be explained as not loving the hottie dive instructor movin’ in on his widowed mother) and Kristal is having nightmares every night, to the point where she is visibly ill, wetting herself, and waking up screaming. All Ann seems to register about these nightmares are how good she looks in her short, lacy nightgowns as she goes to her daughter’s side.

Everything comes together for Ann within the last hundred or so pages, and that’s kind of a huge problem. The narrative is stretched out with perspective bouncing between Ann and the children, and it becomes clear that Kristal has a psychic link with Kam’s shark-brain, though he is not necessarily aware of that (it’s never explained) even though he is somehow splashing ocean water all over her bedroom and leaving sand from his private beach on her dresser. She and her local buddy/pseudo-boyfriend Donnie investigate the phenomena, paired with her apparent ESP for shark-gods that surfaces in odd images in photos she has taken around Kam.

Buddy just hates Kam for being a dude mackin’ on his mother. A relatively (un)fortuitous dive spells things out for him, though, so he is the first to go babbly-bloody and end up in the hospital after spotting a needlecraft project his mother was making in her sleep showing her shtupping Sharkie McSharkgod hidden in Kam’s underwater cave.

This is another problem. Ann is working on her canvas before she arrives in Maui, so there’s an inkling that there was some psychic link drawing her to Kam and to Hawaii, though it’s never fully established. A crazy devout Christian woman (who is of course dowdy and chubby and nowhere NEAR as hot as Ann) goes off on her on the plane and then again when they meet on the island, saying she has been marked by the beast, and some investigation (again, last hundred or so pages) reveals a pattern of Kam [bleep]ing-and-eating women who have daughters who have nightmares about his shark-life and become sick by his willing it so. Oddly, all of the women specifically mentioned as his eventual underwater dinner-dates are involved in some sort of handicraft, through which their future as a bang-and-buffet is hinted.

NONE OF THIS IS EXPLAINED.

Kristal’s extra-sensory perception is shown to be something she had before leaving their hometown in Michigan, so it wasn’t activated by the presence of the shark god. So why did every woman he ‘fell for’ have a mysteriously psychic daughter? Why were they all involved in arts and crafts? Is this some hideous plot between Hobby Lobby and Sea World that we are unaware of? Will my Cricut machine lead me to being pummelled to death by a shark penis? Perhaps we shall never know.

All in all, it was a completely clumsy execution of something that might have been very interesting. The author stresses Kam’s human side but it’s all tell and no show — yes, he thinks ‘I’m soooo lonely’ a lot but it just comes off as shallow and selfish. The reader is never made to feel anything for Kam, and with Ann being so self-centered and certainly deluded, there are no likable characters in this novel at all, except perhaps for Kristal, who’s falling to pieces.

At the end, Kam dies after Ann attempts a sharky-bonfire that goes wrong and either convinces him he will always be alone enough for him to call other sharks to EAT HIM or he was just so injured by the fire that they scented his blistered bloody body in the water and came for the buffet.

This is after Ann has stripped down, of course, so we hear how hot she is in the moonlight before she swims out. Second time this has happened, incidentally, because she went to explore the cave and look for the needlework and of COURSE her bikini ripped so she was flopping about all naked in the water. There’s also a disturbingly detailed few lines about her taking a pee on the rocks, no lie.

The title also makes no sense because there is very little crying and he’s a god, not a demon. Damn it.

So, yeah. Terrible. So very, very bad. But memorable, for sure. I’m not going to get some of these images out of my head, ever. Ever.

DENTICLES.

DENTICLES.
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