Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

David Ullman is a professor and has spent his life studying literature about demons.  He is particularly interested in Milton's Paradise Lost.  From the very beginning he finds himself identifying with Milton what he does not know is that this identification will later lead him on a journey in which everything he has come to view as theory will be revealed to exist.  It's one thing to notice evil in this world, but what happens when that evil notices you back?

It is the end of the semester and David is asked to travel to Venice to give an expert opinion. Not only will this trip be all expenses paid but it comes with a payment equal to a third of his yearly salary.  This is not enough to tempt David until his wife informs him that their marriage is over.  David hops on a plane with his daughter Tess, not expecting that this trip will put him to the test and potentially cost him that which he loves the most - his daughter. 

The Demonologist is not the sort of book that you can fall asleep to because it demands your attention from the very beginning.  The themes are extremely complex and though Pyper avoids the use of academic language, the themes he explores absolutely require critical thought.  It is the sort of book that will leave you questioning long after you finish the last page. 

Because this horror is based on demons, to those who at least have a passing belief in the unseen world, The Demonologist will be terrifying. The tension slowly builds and each visitation of a demon becomes more and more intense.  It's the kind of book that you think twice about reading at night and that makes The Demonologist the best kind of horror. It is quite startling because at first, it reads like a book which could have been written by Dan Brown, and then shifts into something that is filled with Pypers own unique and talented voice.

The characters were extremely well developed, complex and easy to identify with.  David in particularly was very well written and as he began to question everything he believed to be true, as a reader, I was compelled to take this journey into darkness with him. O'Brien could simply have been a character for David to save, as often happens when a woman is the side kick to a man, but instead she made it clear from the very beginning that each decision she made was on her own terms and that she absolutely did not want to be protected no matter the horror that they faced.  That it was O'Brien in the end who set David on the path back to normalcy really spoke strongly about her role to this story.

As you may well have guessed by now, I loved The Demonologist. It is a book that I will think about for quite some time because it raised some very important questions about the nature of evil. And as much as it pains me, I have to pause in my not to gracious fanpoodling, to poke at the precious long enough to mention a few of the problems.

Depression and or melancholy as Pyper called it, is brought on by the influence of a demon in The Demonologist, and it is not only problematic, it is positively old testament.  Though this line of thinking fits with the themes Pyper explored throughout The Demonologist, it is still very ableist because it serves to 'other' those who are neurologically atypical.  Pyper absolutely could have chosen some other manifestation to represent being troubled by a demon. This is further compounded by the fact that the story itself is highly erased.  It is to some degree understandable as The Demonologist does not have a lot of characters; however, having privileged bodies as the default representation of humanity while common does not mean that each incident does not amount to an assault against historically marginalized people. 

Okay, that brings an end to the responsible adult part of my review. The Demonologist is not an easy read but then it's not meant to be.  What makes it great, is that even though you will easily be swept away by the story, it will absolutely force you to confront the questions Pyper raises.  In many books these days, we get a pat ending with all questions answered but Pyper leaves many things up to the reader in the end.  Instead of leaving the book feeling incomplete, what it does is encourage the reader to use their own imagination and fill in the blanks. When a book can make the reader an active part in filling in the narrative, it truly qualifies as a masterpiece.

Editors Note: A copy of this book was provided by Edelweiss