little late to the party but i'm once again committing to Carl's 'Once Upon a Time' Challenge!
let's see if I can pull myself away from online fanfiction and read an 'actual' book for a change!
my second read for the R.I.P. challenge is Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory.
from the frontispiece...
It is a world like our own in every respect...save one. In the 1950's, 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 Phillip 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 it's solution. But for Del, the cure may be worse than the disease.
I really, Really, REALLY enjoyed this book! Hard to believe it's Mr. Gregory's first novel.
It's interesting the small & large changes that have been wrought upon the world by the demons. In this universe, President Eisenhower is killed by a demon known as the Kamikaze...which brings Vice-President Nixon to power...whereupon he begins a campaign against the demons highly reminiscent of McCarthy's Red Scare of 'our' worlds 1950's. All restaurants have a designated table and chair for the Fat Boy. There are monuments at airports as protection against the Kamikaze. Smokestack Johnny rides the rails, sometimes helping the trains and their conductors out, but more usually speeding them to their destruction.
It's in this world, at Chicago's O'Hare airport that we start the story and meet Del. He's coming home for a visit when his exit is delayed by the appearance of a demon in the concourse...the Painter. Airport security and cops hold back the masses and let the demon do as he will. They all know by now that you can't stop a demon until it's fulfilled it's desire. In this case the Painter is mostly harmless, except for some property destruction in it's quest to finish it's design. A mixed media portrait of a small farmhouse, red silo and barn. It smiles at Del, as if in recognition....finishes it's artwork and leaves it's temporary host, confused and remembering nothing of what just happened.
This is typical of most possessions. If the host survives that is.
Most of the demons Del has knowledge of are well known to us. In our world they're the comicbook superheros and pulp fiction anti-heros. The Captain is our Captain America. The Truth is the Shadow. The Hellion is Dennis the Menace or a Katzenjammer Kid.
The Hellion possessed Del when he was five and stayed with him until it was exorcised 3 years later. But, when Del has an accident when he's 14, suddenly he begins hearing voices except it's not voices so much as scratching and movement in his head. Like his head is a cage and something in it, wants out... His family takes him to see a psychiatrist who he works with for years learning techniques to quiet the thing in his head. Mental exercises, meditation...and drugs, lots of drugs. It worked, or did it? We meet Del after he's had an accident in the Colorado mountains. His car slid thru a guard rail and went over an embankment and he almost drowned. After the accident the scratchings and stirrings in his head have begun again. He's spent the last several months in a mental institution where his episodes have gotten worse. Now the thing in his head is awake all the time, he's started losing control at night and has taken to chaining himself to the bed. He's came home to Chicago in the hopes of meeting a Dr. Ram at the next ICOP (International Conference on Possession) Conference along with it's attendant flock of hangers-on and possession hopefuls, the Demonicon. Which is like Dragoncon on acid. But things start going majorly wrong for Del at the conference when Dr. Ram is killed by a con-goer...and Del had came to that morning in the local police department's drunk tank after blacking out the night before.
This book is fun, fast, furious and thought provoking. The demons are both easily recognizable as tropes and frighteningly, unpredictable in whom they possess. I'm not going to go too into depth as to all of Del's trials and tribulations as he attempts to get his demon OUT OF HIS HEAD (spoilers) but this is easily the most thought provoking novel i've read since 'The Sparrow' and it's sequel 'Children of God' by Mary Doria Russell. Which I would also highly recommend anyone read for the Science Fiction Challenge Carl holds. Like those two books, 'Pandemonium' makes you think about self identity, what constitues reality and the power of love. Pandemonium is going on my 'to keep' bookshelf and i'm definitely trying to get my hands on his next novels.