Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: The Demonologist, by Andrew Pyper

Jul. 6, 2016 Book Review: The Demonologist, by Andrew Pyper:  I cut out this article in the National Post on Mar. 9, 2013:

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper
The Demonologist
By Andrew Pyper
Simon & Schuster
304 pp; $29.99

Before I say anything about Andrew Pyper’s new novel, The Demonologist, let me tell you about some of the praise the book has already received. Both the Toronto Star and the National Post have included the novel on their lists of the most highly anticipated books of the first half of this year. In the U.S., Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and picked it as one of the Top 10 mystery and thriller titles for Spring 2013. In Hollywood — the true yardstick of success — the novel is already in development with Robert Zemeckis and Universal Studios. So this book is going to be big, and it’s going to be popular, and it absolutely deserves to be both of these things. You should buy it, and read it, and let it scare you stupid.

Pyper is already an international bestseller, so it’s no surprise that people are excited about his newest work. Of his previous novels, I’ve only read The Killing Circle, a 2008 thriller set in Toronto’s literary scene. There’s a strong similarity between the two books: both are told in the first person by a middle-aged writer-type who has an absent wife and a child he adores. In both books the child goes missing, and the story is one of the father seeking to reunite with his child against impossible odds. What’s different about The Demonologist — other than that it takes place predominantly in the U.S. — is that it involves the supernatural and aims to be a full-fledged horror novel.

David Ullman, a Canadian expat and professor of demon-related literature whose main focus is Paradise Lost, brings his daughter to Venice after being invited by a mysterious employer to give his expert opinion on a “phenomenon” there. While Ullman doesn’t believe in demons, he is disturbed and unsettled by what he sees — a man who appears to be possessed — and attempts to leave Italy. But before he can collect his daughter, she falls into the canal under mysterious circumstances. Everyone else thinks she has died, but Ullman believes she is being held prisoner, and that he must embark on a wandering journey, following clues left by the demon in order to save his daughter’s life.


The book is billed as “literary horror.” The “literary” moniker is doubtless meant to convey something about the quality of the writing — while some find the term snobbish or pretentious, it’s obviously still considered a desirable enough trait to include on advertising copy. I’ll say this: I’ve read books dubbed “literary” — full stop — that didn’t contain sentences as well-crafted as the ones in The Demonologist. Pyper can write; he has an ear for dialogue and a beautiful sense of rhythm. If the novel’s themes of loneliness and the nature of belief and doubt are a little underdeveloped, it’s not because Pyper isn’t a capable and highly skilled writer. It’s because what he’s doing is crafting a fast-paced story meant to keep readers turning pages, not contemplating the big questions.

What interests me more are the horror aspects of the novel — I am a horror fanboy of the highest order; I unashamedly go to festivals where the films are rated not out of five stars but five diapers, as in how many you’re likely to fill. Pyper’s take on the horror genre is interesting because it is innovative. I was expecting a contemporary version of The Exorcist, in which Ullman’s daughter Tess would suffer possession. Instead, the demon more or less kidnaps her — holds her ransom in a kind of hellish purgatory, extorting Ullman’s obedience. While this twist is unique, it serves to keep the book somewhat in thriller territory — the villain is simply demonic instead of human. It also presents a flaw in the story’s internal logic — Tess is possessed before she falls into the water, yet for the rest of the novel the demon’s power is limited to inhabiting the bodies of people who have already died.

Despite this one misstep, Pyper’s innovations are effective in keeping the reader guessing. I’m used to priests throwing holy water and commanding demons to reveal their names as a way to cast them out; here, the demon compels our very secular hero to deduce its name using literary references. It wants its name discovered, because it will increase its power, but it can’t reveal it on its own. The demon’s whole motivation in seducing Ullman, in fact, is to use him to disseminate proof to the public that demons are real and walking among us. In Pyper’s world, the demons want to come out from under our beds, to reveal themselves in the daylight — a powerful and frightening idea.

The use of quotations from Paradise Lost and the vestigial thriller elements in the novel invite comparisons to Dan Brown — but this is much closer to Stephen King, right down to the psychology employed: Ultimately, the true demons are wounds from the past, traumas from childhood; the true evil is what human beings inflict on one another. In terms of pure scares, I would only give this book three diapers out of five, but then I’m a desensitized freak. I dare you to read it. The Demonologist might just scare the lit out of you.

Matthew J. Trafford is a horror fanatic and author of the short story collection The Divinity Gene.

Jul. 14, 2016 Alberta Magazines: I have the magazine called Template: The Definitive How- to Guide to Magazine Publishing in Alberta from 2006.  I got this when I was in Professional Writing at MacEwan.  I looked through the magazine one more time, and it's good if you want to get into the magazine industry.  However, it's not for me because I'm not going to create a magazine.


Proofreading: I also have some proofreading handouts from NAIT.

Both of these things I'm going to give to my co-worker S.

Jul. 21, 2016 "The myth of the interactive novel": I found this article by Russel Smith in the Globe and Mail.

The first line of the article stood out to me: "About once a month I receive an excited press release about a new 'interactive' or 'immersive' book- a multimedia thing to be experienced on an electronic device- and every single one claims to be the FIRST INTERACTIVE BOOK EVER."

He has been getting that claim for the past 12 yrs.


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