The term ‘Demi-monde’ refers to a group of people who live conspicuous and hedonistic lifestyles on the fringes of respectable society, and this third instalment in Rod Rees gleefully entertaining saga of historical dictators and bourgeois psychopaths vying for power in a virtual cyber-world continues to live up to the expectations one might associate with this loose definition.
Having now discovered the true nature of the link between the Demi-monde and the real world, Norma Williams (the US president’s daughter, trapped against her will within the Demi-monde) and her motley crew of renegade dupes must journey into an area known as The Coven: a rabidly feminist sector loosely based on the real world Far East, which is ruled over by Empress Wu and supports a anti-male religion known as HerEticalism. Once there, their problems only multiply though, as Reinhardt Heydrich’s Forthright Army are still hot on their trail and lay siege to the region, aiming to kill two birds with one stone.
Rees’ strength lies within the breadth of his imagination and the series’ larger picture which he continues to bring together via the liberal and continued application of historical figures. Reviews for the Demi-monde saga thus far have tended to fall into one of two categories. Whilst the majority of reviews on offer find Rees’ books to be both entertaining and fun, a small proportion have described his writing as either unsubtle or borderline vulgar. To be honest, I think this second set of opinions rather misses the point though. In the Demi-monde, Rees describes those characters who have the potential to alter the fabric of their society by pure force of will as Dark Charismatics (Reinhardt Heydrich, Robespierre, The Marquis de Sade and Aleister Crowley, to name but a few), but in reality, the rise and fall of such figures was spread out across the whole breadth of human history. Would a world in which all of these cartoonish despots and tyrants were brought together in a finite area of land and forced into direct territorial conflict not be expected to demonstrate a certain degree of obtuseness.
For me, the Demi-monde is clearly a writer’s book and a hugely enjoyable one at that. I’m in no doubt whatsoever that the author had a huge amount of fun creating this particular world and populating it with a variety of famous figures from history. Sometimes, it’s better to put aside such narrative constraints as believability and logic, and just go with the flow instead.