Hell's Heroes, the 10th and final book of The Demonata, starts just after the events of book 9. Grubbs bids his uncle Dervish an emotional goodbye, then returns to the world beyond with a blind, captive Kernel, to take the fight to the demon armies which are crossing more and more frequently. But he knows that his true foe is waiting for him in the universe of the Demonata. And he is also fairly certain that Bec has pledged herself to Lord Loss.
When Grubbs finally decides to face Lord Loss on his home turf, it is the start of the final ever war, in which the fate of our world and universe will be decided once and for all. The stakes have never been so high. The cost of failure has never been so deadly. And the three parts of the Kah-Gash have never been so fractured.
With heroes like this, who needs enemies?!?
NB - PLOT SPOILERS!!! DO NOT READ BEFORE YOU HAVE READ HELL'S HEROES!!
I started work on Hell's Heroes on July 13th 2006, and finished my final edit on June 5th 2009. In total, I worked on The Demonata for more than 8 years, from February 6th 2001 to June 5th 2009.
Book 10 was relatively easy to write, as I knew pretty much everything that I wanted to do with the story by this stage, and it was simply a case of bringing all of the plot-lines together and rounding them off. I had the ending for the series in mind from quite early on, at least 2003 or 2004, even before I knew exactly how or if I was going to get there! While books 7, 8 and 9 all presented challenges of one kind or another, I always felt confident that I could breeze through the last book, and that more or less proved the case. Each day was exciting and I tore through the first draft and subsequent edits.
I didn't change a huge amount of the book in the editing process, except for tighten it up. But there was one major change -- the fate of the lesser demons. In the first draft, and through most of the editing, I killed off ALL of the demons except for Lord Loss. I figured that my three heroes would be angry and eager for vengeance, and it made sense to me that they would be merciless with the Demonata. In the early drafts they exterminated every single living demon, leaving their universe a blank, uninhabited shell. It was neat and nasty, a fitting ending for a vile, vicious species which had done all in their power to wipe out the universe of mankind...
... but something about it sat uneasily with me. I couldn't shake the feeling that it was wrong. My demons were evil, inhuman beasts from another dimension -- but was that any justification for genocide? I kept trying not to think about it that way, because I wanted to kill off the demons. Having identified closely with my protagonists, I shared their pain and sense of fury. Because of the Demonata, Dervish was dead, and Meera, and Bill-E, and so many others. They deserved to be slaughtered, each and every one of them. Didn't they?!?
The answer, I finally realised, was NO. In my mind, there must be no situation where genocide is ever acceptable. There are times when our enemies must be killed, when it's a true case of us or them, but it's vital that we always recognise who exactly those enemies are, that we not tarnish an entire race with the same brush. All demons were evil in this series, yes, but most were not able to pose any threat to mankind, so why kill the powerless along with the powerful? If I did that, I would be doing it purely out of spite, and I would be just as evil as the demons I was wiping out.
Thus, in one of the last drafts, I rewrote the scenes where Grubbs and co lay into the forces of the Demonata. Bec, as usual, was the voice of the reason, the one to see what I had initially missed, the one to save Grubbs and Kernel from making what would have been a calamitous and costly mistake, one that would have possibly cost them their sanity and humanity in the long run. For the universe to be healed, it had to be mended, and that meant putting ourselves above the demons we were pitted against. We must never stoop to the level of our lowest enemies, or in victory we will simply become them. I lost sight of that a bit during the writing of the book, but thankfully my characters led me back to the path of reason in the end.
I knew since early on that I was going to spare Lord Loss, and also that I wanted to use the poem from book 1 again, to neatly bookend the series. I considered using it at the very end of the book, but decided in the end to bring it forward by a few chapters, when we get our last glimpse of Lord Loss, as it made more sense including it at that point. Also, I didn't want the last word to go to the demon master!!!
The repeated poem was also another example of the circular nature of the series. One of the points I tried to impress over and over throughout the course of the ten books was that history repeats itself and time, in a way, is circular. I've commented previously on the order of the narrators, the symmetry of the series, how they are the same back to front as they are front to back. The first line of Bec was the same as the last. The first book ended with a sort of shaggy-dog style joke -- so did the last. I knew that I was going to end the series by bringing time back to its start and letting it unravel all over again, and I wanted to plant seeds that would prepare readers for that, albeit slyly and subtly.
The last chapter of the book owes a lot to an Isaac Asimov short story, "The Last Question", in which a computer is asked to figure out a way to save mankind from the ultimate destruction of the universe. It spends trillions of years working on the solution to the problem, and ends up outlasting not just mankind, but the universe itself. Ultimately, when it has the answer to hand, it wants to inform someone, but there are no living beings left -- so it re-creates the universe and starts life over again, pretty much the same way that Grubbs does at the end of Hell's Heroes. As with the sci-fi nods in book 9 which reference Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Hawking, this was my way of acknolwedging and paying homage to a genius of the genre, a man who had a huge influence not only on what sort of stories I write, but the way I think about the world and our universe.
I was conscious, when writing the last few chapters, that fans might compare it with the ending of The Saga and claim that I was very limited when it came to ending long series!! Both series end with time travel and a re-start of sorts. In an ideal world, I wouldn't have followed the ending of The Saga with the ending of The Demonata after such a short time -- I would have written lots of other books between the two. But that's not the way things worked out, and I always think you have to play to a story's strengths, regardless of all other factors. e.g. I'm sure there are some writers at the moment who would refuse point blank to write a vampire story, because they know that they would be accused of trying to cash in on the Twilight-inspired craze. But I think that a truly good story should always be told, even if there are a dozen other stories out in the market just like it at the same time. You can't be afraid of competition -- even if that competition comes in the form of your own books!!!!
I was pleased when fans didn't react unfavourably to the ending of The Demonata, and I think that's because they realised the two endings, while both involving time travel, were fundamentally different, and left readers with completely different feelings about what had just happened. I've been obsessed with time travel since I was a young child, and have written a couple more books in which it's a vital factor. I hope to publish them one day, but it won't be any time soon. I plan to leave time travel alone for a while now -- UNLESS a great time travel story hits me out of the blue and demands to be written, of course!!!!