by Daryl Gregory
Review by Harriet Klausner
Del Rey Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345501165
Date: 26 August 2008 List Price $13.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Demonic possession began to rise in the 1950s and since every one of the one hundred parasites can jump from person to person, thousands of people were infected. Each demon is assigned a specific role like the pander who paints a farm house or the Little Angel who kisses a dying person giving them substance. Del Pierce was possessed as a child by Hellion, but with the help of his family and a caring psychologist he banished the demon.
An adult Del still cannot live a normal life. An accident when he was fifteen caused him to hear voices and another accident as an adult has made him believe Hellion is back in side his head. When Del sleeps, gets into trouble hurting people and destroying property. It gets so bad; he is hospitalized where they give him sleeping pills so he does not wake up during the night.
When his insurance runs out, the hospital releases him, but without the pills he has no peace. Del returns to his hometown to attend the International Conference on Possession. Tired of chaining himself to the bed every night Del hopes Dr. Rio's research might keep him demon-free. He gets a chance to talk to Rio, but also meets the demon Kroter who possesses Philip K. Dick. Through him he meets clairvoyant Mother Mirabelle, who offers to help him after the conference ends. While they talk, soldiers from the Higher Leagues whose vision is a demon free earth, inform Mirabelle as to what Del is. She believes if she helps him she will learn more about demon-kind.
Pandemonium is classified as a young adult fantasy, but adult readers will enjoy this complex surrealistic plot that looks deep into the human psyche from a psychological perspective, especially that of the Jungian school; they believe the demons are archetypes of collective unconscious (wonder how they would score on Myers-Briggs?). Del's past will have readers think of his or her traumatic moments. An interesting aspect of the tale is that different groups disagree on the definition of what is a demon; that diversity proves to be an issue as each group reacts and acts accordingly. Besides the Jungian crowd some feel it is a disease; others the devil's minions; and others believe invaders from elsewhere.
Del is a tortured soul who will go any distance to rid himself of Hellion so that he can get a good night's sleep. Readers, especially those with sleep disorders, will sympathize with his suffering and support his desire to live a normal life as an ordinary person, whose neighbors will visit. He is critical to the believability of the thriller because he puts the human face to demon possession.
Daryl Gregory's Pandemonium is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's American Gods as a journey through the psyche of what is an American although no mention of Rove possessing Bush. There is enough action to keep readers' interest but in a purposeful twist of irony, the characters are stereotypes of creatures. Although not for everyone, those who relish a multi-layered thriller that employs demonic possession as an allegorical look at mental disorders will enjoy it.