“Here’s another definition of wandering: emotions so great they require superstition to explain them. This is the core observation of my field of study, after all. Fear- of death, of loss, of being left behind- is the genesis of belief in the supernatural. For someone like me to suddenly find himself entertaining the myths of primitives can only be seen as symptomatic of a psychotic break of some kind. I know this to be as verifiable as the street numbers I walk past, as the time on my watch. I am proposing that a demon took my daughter from me. Just stop and say that out loud a few times. Just hear it. It is the sort of theory that rightly justifies locking someone in Bellevue for long term observations.
So I move on. Surrounded by blue-green people on blue-green blocks.
And feel almost nothing.”
Lately for some reason the theme of demons has become prominent in my entertainment choices, first with seeing the movie The Conjuring and now with reading The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper. Dan Brown’s Inferno, which I am currently reading as well, is also centered around a prominent piece of literature and several pieces of artwork based on a creative interpretation of Hell and Purgatory. I have always found it a fascinating subject, maybe because it such a feared, almost taboo topic in some regards. And yet it also speaks of human beliefs that go back for generations and the historian in me gets giddy at the idea of how current literature makes use of these themes.
David Ullman is a world-renowned expert on demonic literature, specifically Milton’s Paradise Lost and while he may not refer to himself as one, he is a demonologist of sorts. While his academic career may be a success, his personal life is dissolving before his eyes and the only source of comfort comes from his daughter Tess and Elaine O’Brien, an academic college who is also his best friend. When a mysterious woman arrives at his office and extends a vague invitation from an unnamed employer, Ullman initially refuses but the intrigue soon gets the better of him and he, along with his daughter Tess, heads off to Venice, Italy. While there he witnesses a horrific event of unbelievable proportions, which ultimately leads to the loss of his daughter. The journey to reclaim her will lead Ullman to face demons of all kinds, some personal, some beyond the realm of belief. Where he once refused the plausible reality of demons, Ullman gradually comes to understand that their presence may have been a constant throughout his entire life and now, along with his academic knowledge, cumulates with unknown forces choosing him for a task of demonic intent.
While The Demonologist is categorized as fiction, it could easily belong in the horror section; some of the episodes of demonic activity that Ullman experiences are quite disturbing. The storyline is also a nonstop adrenaline rush with Ullman facing danger after danger, some mortal but most immortal, and numerous times when I set the book aside for the night, images conjured from the demonic encounters written by Pyper made sleep a little harder to come by. There’s no denying that Pyper was able to touch on an underlying fear in all of us; the unknown. Between that and the elegant style of prose used by Pyper, which pulls the reader through the more disturbing content, it is certainly a hard book to put down.
The one thing that drew me to this novel, besides the obvious fascination with the demonic possibilities, was the fact that Pyper writes David Ullman as an academic professor and so I was looking forward to learning some historical goodness about the subject, very much like what Dan Brown does with Robert Langdon. However, while there are some in depth discussions regarding Paradise Lost any kind of real delving into the lore of demonology fails to take place. The struggle is very much centered around Ullman’s memories and mentality, which makes for an interesting read in and of itself but I would have personally enjoyed a little more background knowledge concerning demons and their presence in the written record and experience.
The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper is a fascinating novel that holds its own with multiple scares and moral dilemmas. It certainly sits on the darker side of fiction but Pyper masters the combination of using a striking writing style and unnerving demonic intervention to create a thrilling piece of fiction that draws you deeper and deeper into a man’s world that is falling apart when evil forces tear away the things he loves most. Unlike so many modern novels however it’s not terrorists or crime that causes this loss, but something far more old and sinister. It was a great, if somewhat disturbing, read that I highly recommend for anyone with similar curiosities about the unknown.
Devon – a1000booklife
Other books by Andrew Pyper: Lost Girls (1999), The Trade Mission (2002), The Wildfire Season (2005), The Killing Circle (2008) and The Guardians (2011)