March 7, 2016

Book Review: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

Source: Vine

Professor David Ullman’s expertise in the literature of the demonic—notably Milton’s Paradise Lost—has won him wide acclaim. But David is not a believer.

One afternoon he receives a visitor at his campus office, a strikingly thin woman who offers him an invitation: travel to Venice, Italy, witness a “phenomenon,” and offer his professional opinion, in return for an extravagant sum of money. Needing a fresh start, David accepts and heads to Italy with his beloved twelve year-old daughter Tess.

What happens in Venice will send David on an unimaginable journey from skeptic to true believer, as he opens himself up to the possibility that demons really do exist. In a terrifying quest guided by symbols and riddles from the pages of Paradise Lost, David attempts to rescue his daughter from the Unnamed—a demonic entity that has chosen him as its messenger.

I know much has been made of the similarity to Da Vinci Code (which I enjoyed), but I would have to disagree. The writing style and mood of The Demonologist is vastly different. This isn't an enviable road trip to famous landmarks where the hero collects literary clues which will uncover a secret that will rock the world. The "clues" within this novel are deceptively simple, and in the end, build up to a very different epiphany. Not a controversial, shocking revelation, but a deeply spiritual one.

The only thing that would rock any fundamentalists out there, I believe is the menacing character called the Pursuer who hunts Ullman in his quest. He never confirms or denies that the Church is his employer; Ullman infers that the Vatican/some sort of power religious organization is after him, along with the demon(s).

The Demonologist starts with a deeply disturbing visit by a very strange woman and jumps into Venice. The trip, however, is briefly lovely before it turns horrifying, and then tragic. The rest of the novel spirals downward as Ullman ends up in a cross-country American trip from one dead-end, depressing town to another. This puzzled me before I realized that demons aren't just to be found in exotic, foreign climes, but at home, within the terrifyingly mundane landscape, and finally - inside one's self.

The literal demon and metaphorical demon converge within The Demonologist in a haunting, truly scary story. I read the first part of it late at night and when I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore, I stopped reading. But couldn't sleep because I was so disturbed by what I had read. And the next morning, even though I had terrible, uneasy sleep, I had to pick it up again to finish reading and was yelling at the book, "Don't go down the cellar. Please don't go down there. I don't want to know what's waiting for you!!!" But he did go down the cellar and it did freak me out.

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