Satan's Salesman by Matthew Davenport

(7.2/10) It is simultaneously a satire of sales culture, a philosophical dive into morality, and a meditation on the strengths of ambition and greed.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Faust, who made a deal with the Devil by trading his soul for knowledge and pleasure. While Faust would live a charmed life for the remainder of his days, his soul would burn in Hell for eternity after he died. Faust’s story poses the question if getting want you want is worth the ultimate cost, or if the ends justify the means. In Matthew Davenport’s novella Satan’s Salesman, this story is approached with an interesting twist: what if there is a sales team working for Hell that are trying to close these deals, getting desperate people to trade their souls for their ultimate wish? It gives a literal and comic interpretation to the phrase, “Corporate is Hell.”

Shane is a talented salesman with a loving girlfriend and plenty of ambition. He just misses getting the promotion he deserves through no fault of his own, and soon hears about a company called Perdition Investments that could help him out. They attempt to recruit Shane to work for them, but instead of earning cash, Shane would be able to make his wildest dreams come true insomuch as he follows the rules and met his monthly quota. However, the nature of the business forces Shane to evaluate his intentions in life, his adherence to a moral code, and what kind of life he truly wants.

While I had a few issues with the writing style of Davenport, I did overall enjoy this story. It is simultaneously a satire of sales culture, a philosophical dive into morality, and a meditation on the strengths of ambition and greed. But even though it’s a pretty short book to begin with, I think a good portion of it could also have been edited down. The book’s opening lines were mired in unnecessary detail, and that trend continued for the entirety of the story. I can’t think of an opening paragraph with less of a hook than “As Shane Lowe slid the keys to his Sebring into his pocket, he pressed the lock button. The resulting quick honk of the horn let him know that the car was locked.” There were plenty more instances of needless exposition that had me wanting to sell my own soul if Davenport would just jump to the important scenes. Luckily, those scenes carried enough weight to keep me interested in Shane’s story. There were some nice plot developments and unexpected twists, and though the end was a little rushed, I enjoyed how Davenport decided to end the story.

I’m undecided if I can classify this book as horror. It certainly has elements containing the threat of horror – there’s demons, but they all have management and VP roles. There’s the threat of eternal damnation, but it seems no different than the threats that many religious believers must face every waking day. Unless you consider your own life a horror story, then I think this book works as more of a biting satire into corporate culture. Once I decided upon this tone, I began to enjoy this book much more. So, if you’re interested in a Faustian story with a modern twist and healthy dose of dark comedy, then you might enjoy Satan’s Salesman.

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