One quality all of de Camp's Reginald Rivers stories have in common is fun. Unless lacking a sense of humor, most discussion group members will be glad to have read the stories simply because they offered adventures in well-drawn exotic locales involving some of the more popular animals of prehistoric eras. The social concern about evolutionism versus creationism is a hot topic and is likely to remain so for many years, perhaps generations, to come. A discussion leader might best begin by reminding group members that "The Satanic Illusion" is in part about being open-minded and that a discussion that is open-minded about the central social issue of the story would be in keeping with the spirit of the story. After that, one tack to take would be to invite comment on how open-minded de Camp seems to be in creating his narrative. How fair is it? What, if anything, is missing in order to create a balanced view? Aside from the social issues, other avenues for generating good discussions are: The different ecosystems; the animals; the interaction of human beings with wildlife that has never experienced human beings.
1. De Camp mentions several different kinds of animals in "The Satanic Illusion." How well has de Camp described the animals? How much of his description of their behavior is from his imagination and how much from what science has found? Are his animals plausible?
2. If discussion group members are feeling particularly industrious they might research ahead of time the different geological eras the story's characters visit. What kinds of life existed in North America in the eras mentioned? What were their ecosystems like? Does de Camp make these ecosystems come to life?
3. How representative is Zahn of Christian fundamentalism? How representative of it is Hubert?
4. Should Rivers take a more active role in advocating his view in favor of evolution? If so, how? If not, why not?
5. Is what happens to Zahn satisfying? Should he suffer? Is what happens to him in keeping with human nature, even if it does not satisfy one's hopes for justice?
6. What is Rivers's responsibility in Hubert's death? Did he do what he should? What is Hubert's own measure of responsibility for his fate?
7. Should Rivers be willing to take more people on expeditions to study the development of life? Is he correct in his view that such safaris would be "to settle theological arguments"?
8. "The Satanic Illusion" has a quest structure. Is the goal of the quest reached? Does it matter?
9. What aspect of the story seems most important to de Camp, the characters, the social issues, or the adventures? How does he develop his focus?
10. Rivers is very concerned about being able to shoot animals. Is his concern justified? How much of the concern comes from his own attitudes toward wildlife and how much is based on the behavior of the animals?