Monday, September 27, 2010

"Pandemonium" by Daryl Gregory

It is a world like our own in every respect... save one. In the 1950s, random acts of possession begin to occur. Ordinary men, women, and children are the targets of entities that seem to spring from the depths of the collective unconscious, pop-cultural avatars some call demons. There's the Truth, implacable avenger of falsehood. The Captain, brave and self-sacrificing soldier. The Little Angel, whose kiss brings death, whether desired or not. And a string of others, ranging from the bizarre to the benign to the horrific. As a boy, Del Pierce is possessed by the Hellion, an entity whose mischief-making can be deadly. With the help of Del's family and a caring psychiatrist, the demon is exorcised...or is it? Years later, following a car accident, the Hellion is back, trapped inside Del's head and clamoring to get out. Del's quest for help leads him to Valis, an entity possessing the science fiction writer formerly known as Philip K. Dick; to Mother Mariette, a nun who inspires decidedly unchaste feelings; and to the Human League, a secret society devoted to the extermination of demons. All believe that Del holds the key to the plague of possession - and its solution. But for Del, the cure may be worse than the disease.

I don't really know what to say about this book, except that I found myself very involved in a very short time. It seems to be one thing when you start, and then you get an inkling that things are not as they seem, and then you figure it out - and yet, you still keep reading, mostly due to the fact that you're heavily invested in the lead character, Del.

I thought it was an interesting take on what could possibly be some sort of mental illness, the idea that these people are actually possessed by certain demons. And the demons are always the same ones, leading the psychologists who do believe the possession theory to state that these are classic Archetypes. What's strange is that when talking about demons, you usually get the whole Heaven/Hell aspect - but not in this book. There's nothing to indicate that the "demons" are on any side.... indeed, some such as the Captain would seem to be on the side of "good", while the Little Angel could potentially be seen as the Angel of Death (and most people feel that's the side of "evil").

Del is quite the enigma, and I really enjoyed the interaction of him with his family. You felt for him, a man who suffered as a boy, and having had a traumatic experience, finds himself struggling not to suffer again. The question is why Del, possessed by the Hellion as a child, was able to control/contain his demon so many years ago, and can he do it again? The answer isn't as simple as you think...

I would classify this as a sci-fi/fantasy, rather than general fiction, which is were my library system had it for lack of a better place. I can see why we left it in gen fic - it's not an easily classified work. There are certainly fantastical elements in it, and yet, the core story IMHO is really about family - the love of family for each other, the strength and length they'll go to for each other, and how one becomes part of a family. Very interesting characters, good writing... I'll be looking for something from Gregory again.

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