What with the excitement of Dan Brown’s latest treat coming out and the whirlwind of Mary Higgins Clark books I just stepped out of, it seemed natural to crave adventure and excitement on a higher level. Andrew Pyper’s name has been whispered all around the literary loops lately and so I turned hungrily to The Demonologist.
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.
How thrilling does that sound? The Demonologist is one hell of a cat and mouse chase–the demons chasing David chasing his daughter. What I wasn’t prepared for was how utterly terrifying I found the book. After the first couple of chapters, I made a pact with myself to read it during the day time only. That didn’t quite work because, really, who can find the time? The night that I ended up reading majority of the book, I sat frozen in my bed unable to move for a straight 30 minutes because I was too scared. Granted, I am a huge ‘fraidy cat’ but this was scary by normal people standards, I guarantee you.
My friend saved a text I sent out that evening because she thought it was funny:
“SERIOUSLY!!! I thought it was going to be a fun trip down academia’s mysteries with a Dan Brown-ish sort of twist. But really, this makes Sydney Sheldon look like an Archie comic writer and Steven Whatshisface (who wrote the Shining?) a plain old comedian”
Obviously I was out of my mind with fear, since I couldn’t even place Stephen King…
When you have an unstoppable villain from whom you cannot hide, the demon of all demons, you’ve got a horror novel in your hands. The palpitations are fierce and the fear is true. Pyper’s writing is brisk and vivid, never allowing your attention to stray or the goosebumps to go away. I often stopped to wonder if Pyper himself felt scared while writing the book. Did he look over his shoulders or start seeing shifty shadows here and there? Okay fine, I was trying to distract myself but hey, a week has passed and I’m still wondering!
The only bone I have to pick with this book was that I would have liked a little more of Paradise Lost in the text. There were some broad connections drawn and quotations made, simple enough for anyone unacquainted with Milton’s works to follow along. Personally, I would have found it a little richer if Pyper had dug deeper rather than merely scratching the surface. If there were a sequel along those lines… I’d take a day off to read it.