January 11, 2005

Demons by John Shirley



I dug this book. Somewhere between The Da Vinci Code and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum (look at me, I figured out how to underline.) The Da Vinci Code is too simplistic while Foucault’s Pendulum is far too academic, even encyclopedic. But I love secret society, spirituality, truth-seeking books. One review called it a mini-masterpiece and I agree with it. Gave me nightmares. Humanity is pretty damned demonic so the cartoonish depiction of demons is not really all that more outlandish than how humans treat each other.

The book is split into two separate novellas, written at different times. I admit that I didn’t finish the second novella. I found myself not liking it and checked the Amazon reviews. Most people said it was tedious compared to the first novella. There’s enough to read without trudging through something. The first novella is worth the price of admission. I linked to John Shirley’s blog on the right to keep tabs on him.

I wrote to John Shirley once, in regards to my other blog, TABOTD. I’ve pretty much abandoned that blog for the time being. I’ve started writing the novel from the beginning. I haven’t thrown anything out, but what’s there is a skeleton. Shirley wrote back a curt reply, "I don’t believe in UFOs," which seemed like a dickhead reply from someone who writes science fiction laced books. He is a good writer, I’ll give him that. I got some pretty cool responses about that blog. Charles Tart, Paul Krassner, and Douglas Rushkoff all wrote back.

I also got David Mitchell’s Number 9 Dream out of the library. I don’t know how far I’m going to make it with this one. It seems like another one of those novels that writes around its subject rather than writing directly. It seems over my head when I want it to be in my head. On page 9 came this sentence: "I act a young man driven by flattery failure into digging a deeper pit." What? Is there a word missing? That’s when I put the novel down. I’m probably not trying hard enough. I checked the reviews on Amazon again and most people said that they loved Mitchell’s writing but couldn’t get through this one. I’m not done with Mitchell by any means. I’d like to try Cloud Atlas or Ghostwritten.

After that I picked up Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. It’s kind of too simplistic in the other direction, but it’s readable. What is it about mainstream, supermarket-type novels that they seem to flow like water and you forget that you’re reading? That’s not always a good thing. I have the same experience with weightier mainstream books like Richard Price’s Freedomland. I’d like to read something by Gaiman so I might just finish this one.

7 comments:

Spiral Stairs said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Demons. I'll check it out. I too am a real sucker for books that contain many mentions of the Knights Templar, or Freemasonry, or forbidden revisionist Biblical history. I thought the Da Vinci Code was fun, but I could virtually see the writer's screenplay fantasies (recently made real, apparently) on display with every ready-made witticism and nick-of-time rescue. Foucault's Pendulum was just as engrossing to me, but by the time I was 3/4 of the way through, I was at least 3/4 lost. The 1/4 I continued to understand was pretty cool.

As an aside, I hate it when people say they don't "believe" in UFOs. Does that mean they believe that every flying object ever observed has, in fact, been identified? I think what they mean to say is that they don't believe UFOs contain extraterrestrial beings. Then say it!

Martha O'Connor said...

Hi Henry,
I've added your blog to my links bar. Thanks for the good wishes. I will keep a lookout for your writings! Best, Martha

Henry Baum said...

Thanks a lot, Martha. I've been really enjoying your blog.

Spiral, a very aside: I've had a couple of emails to you sent back.

Spiral Stairs said...

Hmm... Did they say why? Weird. I'll try to send you something.

tequilita said...

what's "flattery failure" ???

Anonymous said...

I've read Demons. I felt that the first half felt like a childish cartoon. I love sci-fi, but this felt like it was trying for a metaphor and not reaching it. Maybe more like a fable, since it was so juvenile, but still not proving it.

Emil Michelle said...

I haven't read Demons, but I'll add it to my wish list. But I did read, or rather tried to read, Freedomland, while I was in jail. I just couldn't get into it. I don't know why. (And if you can't get into a book in jail, there's a reason for it). But I REALLY enjoyed North of Sunset, by good ol' (mega-talented) Henry Baum, which book, by the way, I'm about to mail to someone in Canton, Ohio, through BooK MoocH.

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