Top critical review
Not his Finest, But An Interesting Debut
Reviewed in the United States on February 7, 2013
The debut novel is so often an author's strongest - it can feel like the most polished and precious of an author's entire canon. I have been a fan of McCammon's for quite a few years now, but my familiarity is more with his recent novels. It has taken me a bit of time to track down this, his debut novel. And with hopes set high, it quickly becomes apparent that McCammon is one of those authors who has really honed their craft over time. This debut is far from being his strongest novel!
Its biggest flaws lies with its uncertain grasp on time. Years ebb and flow through the book, but without any sort of specificity. The general backdrop of technology feels consistent, making it feel like Baal has aged like a soap opera's progeny (overnight, and all at once). With a broad scope for a horror novel, coincidence plays a large role which downplays the frightening scenes. The varied characters, though lively, do not ever feel like they have a permanent role in the novel, giving them all more of a minor, undeveloped feel.
There is plenty of horror and gore here - with an almost screenplay-like action and sense of setting. As the plot unfolds, it certainly follows an unpredictable path and the prose along the way hints at McCammon's later mastery with words. It's an interesting first novel, and though I wouldn't recommend starting with McCammon here, I certainly don't regret reading it.