Surviving Demon Island
by Jaci Burton
(Bantam Dell, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-440-24335-9
***
Surviving Demon Island is one of those books which is neither bad nor good. It just is. I read it. I enjoyed it. I will probably quickly forget it.

When Hollywood movie star Gina Bliss signs up to do a survival-type reality show, she never expected it to get quite so real. For one, Ms. No Commitment has it in big for Derek Marks, a former Navy guy who is helping to run the show. Then, once things between Gina and Derek appear to be running smoothly, events on Demon Island take a turn for the worse. Instead of trying to run off the other contestants, Gina works with them to fight off a race of demons.

As it turns out, the television show is really a front for a centuries-old organization. The Realm of Light, headed by the apparent host of the Demon Island show, are the descendents of a hand- selected group of people, gifted with the ability to detect demons. They have been guarding the gates of hell and fighting off the Sons of Darkness. The latter have been killing off their wives and children, diminishing the pure bloodlines of the Realm of Light. The population of the Sons of Darkness is also on the decline. Thatís why they have been kidnapping human females and using them as baby-machines.

Faced with a similar dilemma, the Realm of Light use a different tactic to strengthen their numbers. They recruit outside the traditional families. The contestants were selected with this in mind. Not only do they have the requisite martial skills and physical stamina, but also they have an excellent motive: the Sons of Darkness kidnapped their mothers.

And so the battle to save earth begins.

If you can work past this rather hokey, watered-down, and borrowed premise, you might enjoy some of the action scenes. Burton doesnít indulge in a blow by blow account, but she doesnít skimp on the details about fancy high tech weapons and tactical strategies either. This will appeal to fans of butt-kicking heroines.

The problem is that Gina and her allies arenít up against the worthiest allies. The demons, with the exception of their unearthly stench, arenít too credible: they donít seem to be much more than big bad guys on a wilderness rampage. And when their inhuman features are described, for some reason (probably the fact that both Derek and Gina saw them when they were hiding in the closet as kids), Maurice Sendak comes to mind. Mismatched bodyparts, hairy limbs and teethy grins aside, those wild things are not the scariest things around.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention. Derek and Gina have a lot of sex. (Jaci Burton writes for Elloraís Cave; she does this part fairly well.) And in case you didnít figure it out already, they both have commitment issues that stem from thinking their mothers abandoned them when young. (Burton does this less well, but at least it makes sense, once you get past the wild rumpus part.)

There really isnít much more than that. I guess weíll just have to wait and see how the future episodes pan out.

--Mary Benn


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