David doesn’t believe in God but he has devoted his life to the study and teaching of Christian mythology with a focus on Milton’s Paradise Lost. When he receives a mysterious job offer involving a trip to Venice, he sees it as nothing more than a chance to take his daughter on holiday, away from the disruption of his impending divorce. But what happens in Venice shakes his entire world view. Do demons really exist?
Professors get into loads of trouble don’t they? I had high hopes of this leaning towards The Historian or A Discovery of Witches territory however it turned out to be a fast paced thriller with a dollop of Milton. The story starts off establishing David’s history of depression and his family troubles before he experiences life changing events in Venice, which not only rock his faith but have a huge impact on his mental health. But instead of shying away from his problems, he is determined to get to the bottom of them, driven by a determination to save his daughter, even if no one else believes him.
I liked the idea of exploring Milton’s mythology in a modern day setting, and was entertained by the demon quoting Paradise Lost. However, it came across as a rather typical demonic possession. I wanted the demon to be more complex, especially since several passages focus on the idea that the fall of man wasn’t quite as black and white as portrayed in religious texts. For demon merely means “knowledge” and Lucifer was an angel that disagreed with God’s plan; a plan which kept mankind ignorant. I kind of like that version of the story, so to make the demons plain evil was a bit of a let-down. All the quoting of Milton was wasted.
There’s a certain cinematic quality to the novel. Interestingly Robert Zemeckis is on-board for a film adaptation already and I think it will be well suited to the big screen. The locations are perfect; Central Station, Venice and the open roads of Middle America. The pace moves quickly throughout and the demonic possession might work a bit better in a visual medium.
The Demonologist is published by Orion and will be available in hardback, trade paperback and ebook editions from 11th April 2013.
Also reviewed @ No More Grumpy Bookseller
Disclosure: I was gifted an advance copy of this book by a reader of this blog.
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