The Hades Project

by Justin Gustainis

Reviewed by Susie Hawes

Deep in the jungles of Vietnam, Michael Pacilio thought he’d seen the deepest atrocity a man can witness . . . and he was right.

He knew this, because he saw it again in present day Fairfax, Virginia.  Ten dead bodies.  Ten viciously tortured and murdered scientists in a government-funded scientific lab, horrendous reminders of the nightmare he endured in Vietnam. 

Justin Gustainis tells a tale of demonic possession, serial rape/murder and impending doom.  Pacilio, the main character, is a government troubleshooter out to stop the killings, but first he must determine the murderer’s identity and why he has chosen to surface at this time.  Asmodeus, the demonic antagonist, is mentioned in myth, lore and in the Catholic bible.  How can the human Pacilio stop Asmodeus from carrying out his infernal directive?

For tense, page-turning action, horror with a bite and characters a reader can feel, this novel is a treat.  For a first novel, it is impressive.  Mr. Gustainis keeps us on the edge of our seat as his characters move toward a powerful climax. 

The depth of characterization makes us care what happens to Pacilio.  Internal logic, often neglected in a story so fast moving, runs true in this novel and the pacing runs  smooth and even.  I could wish for a more in depth examination of the myths behind the demon, Asmodeus, but the plot is consistent with the sexual nature of the demon’s mythos.

There is gore and sexual carnage aplenty, but not all of the sex in this story is violent. The characters interact as anyone would under these circumstances and without giving away too much, I can say there is a bit of erotic (and tender) lovemaking.  This serves to contrast the brutality of the demon’s murders while establishing the humans as sympathetic people.  The author has used sexuality well; both the violence, which is not glorified, but merely stated, and the lovemaking are appropriate, adding to the depth of the story. 

The author spices the plot up with an additional character, the Reverend Tom Pasco, a hypocritical fool so greedy for power that he will betray all of mankind to gain it.  Wonderfully written, this character is the kind of person we love to hate.  He adds a dimension of uncertainty to the story.  Can Pacilio survive Pascoe’s manipulations long enough to confront the demon?

The Hades Project is a strong first novel, full of visceral scenes and taut suspense, intelligent and thought-provoking.  There is a parallel between the demon’s advent in this novel and the development of the atomic bomb.  What have the scientists in Fairfax discovered?  How will mankind be affected?

The Hades Project is a horror book with a brain, but look out; this one has teeth, too. 

The Hades Project
Brighid’s Fire Books
ISBN:  0-9713278-6-6

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