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Review 3: 'Pandemonium' by Daryl Gregory

Synopsis: Del lives in a world like ours, except occasionally people are possessed by demons: without warning, anyone's body could be hijacked by a single-minded entity concerned only with fulfilling its idiosyncratic purpose. The demons are named for these goals: The Truth murders liars, The Painter draws the same scenes every time using whatever material is to hand, and Smokestack Johnny just drives trains really fast. Though churches, scientists and psychologists all do their best, no-one can explain what these entities are, why they behave as they do, or why some people seem more prone to possession than others. Del, himself a survivor of childhood possession by The Hellion, becomes increasingly convinced that his sanity depends on answering these questions. His quest is interspersed with vignettes of various demons in action, though always from an observer's viewpoint.

Review: Del himself is an amiable if hapless character, his increasingly concerned family are well-drawn and plausible, and their conversations are convincingly depicted. Some of the rest of the cast feel more like characters than people - notably bonkers ex-exorcist (and Sinead O'Connor doppelganger) Siobhan O'Connell - though this could well be intentional as the novel wrestles with questions of identity and purpose, as do many of the characters. It's not just part of the setting - the fact of possession changes the world subtly yet profoundly, turning free will and archetypes from abstractions into matters of life and death. It put me in mind of the (awesome) Ted Chiang short story 'Hell Is The Absence Of God', in which angels appear - unpredictably and inexplicably - in the modern world, often causing horrendous collateral damage. Both explore their high concepts without sacrificing action or character, though 'Pandemonium' is (perhaps inevitably) less spare and focused, with some scenes and characters that feel either extraneous or underused. Nevertheless it's a good fast-paced read; and fans of fiction which literalises metaphysical conundrums will appreciate the cameo by Philip K. Dick, who may or may not be possessed by a demon called VALIS...

Suggested pull quotes for the next edition:

A perfect gift for any fan of the literalisation of metaphysical conundrums!
or
A fun debut novel, if a bit hit-or-It Is Perfect! Buy It!... I'm sorry, where was I?


Illustrative excerpt from Amazon reviews:
* * * *
...the novel wrestles with questions of identity and purpose (as do many of the characters). It's not just part of the setting - the fact of possession changes the world subtly yet profoundly, turning free will and archetypes from abstractions into matters of life and death.
[Well, no-one had reviewed it yet, so I thought I'd better add my own.]

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
cleanskies
Nov. 6th, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)
Oooh, can I borrow that one?
oxfordhacker
Nov. 6th, 2008 11:27 am (UTC)
I'm afraid that, as with most of the books I read on that holiday, it belongs to coalescent. I'll ask him next time I see him, though.
coalescent
Nov. 7th, 2008 08:08 am (UTC)
Yes, but not until I've read it!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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