Book Review: Baal by Robert R. McCammon

Baal begins with an act of violence.

In the late 60s, a woman is raped in an alley by a stranger whose touch burns her skin.  Nine months later, Jeffrey Harper Raines is born.  The woman’s husband fears the baby and tries to drown him, just to be stopped and murdered by Jeffrey’s mother.

Jeffrey is sent to a Catholic orphanage, where he proves himself to be an intelligent and troubled child, the type who can not only mentally control all of the other children but also inspire them to go on a rebellious and destructive rampage.

Years later, a mysterious cult leader named Baal has emerged, first in California and then eventually in Kuwait.  His followers come from all walks of life and they include some of the wealthiest men on the planet.  A researcher tries to gain access to Baal’s cult and promptly disappears.  The researcher’s mentor, an elderly theologian named Dr. Virga, goes to Kuwait in search of his protegé.

What he discovers is that Baal is not only extremely dangerous but that his followers are willing to do anything that he orders them to do.  Fortunately, Virga does find one ally out in the desert — a mysterious man named Michael….

(I guess it was Gabriel’s week off.)

Baal was first published way back in 1978 and reading it, it’s obvious that the novel was heavily influenced by films like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby.  In fact, it’s so derivative of those films that it’s impossible not to get kinda annoyed at not only how predictable the story is but also at the fact that it takes the people in the book so much longer to figure out what the reader realizes immediately.  You really do have to wonder if a cult leader couldn’t have perhaps come up with a name other than Baal.  I mean, that’s kind of like naming yourself Lou C. Ifer or something like that.  You’re just giving the game away.

Today, Baal is best known for being the debut novel of Robert R. McCammon.  McCammon was only 25 years old when he wrote and published Baal and most of the book’s problems — the lack of focus, the occasionally clumsy plot twists– are problems that many debut novels seem to have in common.  For quite some time, McCammon refused to allow Baal to be republished, saying that he felt it was inferior to his later historical and crime novels.  For the record, McCammon’s correct about that but Baal still has enough trashy and sordid moments to be occasionally entertaining.  I guess my point here is that Baal isn’t great and, at times, it’s barely good but it’s still better than Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.

Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures In The Internet Archive #5: Baal (1989, Psygnosis Limited)

For my next adventure in the horror section of the Internet Archive, I played Baal (1989, Psygnosis Limited).

In Baal, you are a leader of something called The Time Warriors.  A demon named Baal has stolen a super weapon and it is up to you to infiltrate Baal’s underground lair, kill Baal’s warriors, get the weapon, and destroy Baal.  It sounds simple but this game is biased against people like me who aren’t any good at games like this.

The game starts with you materializing in Baal’s lair.  I think the blue contraption is a transporter.

Yes, there are ladders and multiple levels.  The controls are simple.  Use the arrow keys to move.  Press the space bar to fire our weapon.  If you want jump, press the space bar and an arrow key at the same time.

That serpent is one of Baal’s minions.  You can destroy the serpent by shooting it several times but don’t make my mistake and get too close.  Touching the serpent kills you.

After it kills you, the serpent flies away.  That was cool.

After getting killed by the serpent, I was given a second chance.  This time, instead of running forward, I ran up the ladder.  I discovered that, much like the serpents, you do not want to touch that blue force field.  I also discovered what happens when you fall off a level.

Eventually, I figured out how to jump and I also managed to kill the serpent before it killed me.  This is what I discovered at the other end of the cave.

Another force field!  I decided to test my theory that running into the force field would cause me to die.

It did.

That was it for me.  Baal can have the super weapon.  Hopefully, Baal’s next opponent will be better at games like this than I am.