The Demonologist: Plot comes first

I’m generally wary of self-described “literary” texts. It feels like a bit of a pre-emptive strike or (to mix analogies) like arrogance masking insecurity to claim “this is a literary thriller.” All the same, this is getting close to a literary thriller (note I said *close*).

There’s certainly the pacing and plot of a thriller: Kidnappings, women in fashionable suits, private jets and fancy hotel rooms, hitmen and demons Not surprising the acknowledgements of the book point out that this book is being turned into a movie. And this is one of my complaints with the plot: it reads like it wants – desperately – to be turned into a movie. Forget spending time examining the thoughts and beliefs of any one character – or how they might change! – we! have! plot! to! consider! It is a gripping plot, though. I made it through the book in two days and wanted, very much, to be reading it. 

I do have other complaints though – are these outweighed by the compelling plot? hard to say. I was okay with the demons and the parallels with the Da Vinci Code (mostly because this was much better written). I was less okay with the various explanations for why our narrator was beset with demons. The novel suggests that demons are all around us, and those suffering from depression may be more likely or more able to “see” these demons. Okay. I’ll accept. But then the novel trots out – almost on a chapterly basis – different hypotheses for why the demons have decided to wreak havoc with David’s life. Not that I’m not interested in the theories, but that each one was presented as “the” reason, so I’d try to absorb that reason and make it fit with the bizzare plot elements only to have “the” reason change a chapter later. It made character motivation and action hard to believe and it made subsequent “reasons” for the demons feel like they were created to suit the particular plot point.

That is to say, the plot was so overpowering that everything else – including reasons for plot points – had to be subsumed to the whim of plot. 

So there’s no real character development – David doesn’t come to understand his father, brother, lover, wife, daughter or self any differently than he did before, now he just accepts demons exist because they showed up and ate his face (not really) – no sense of setting (they drive across the continent and it reads like a movie script describing them in a car rather than the setting having any meaningful relationship to the story). No real thematic or moral question, except perhaps “what would you do for a demon?”

So yeah. “Literary”  if you take literary in the sense that the writing wasn’t terrible – there were some okay descriptions and useful figurative language. And for all those complaints, still undeniably readable. LIke gobble it up readable. I might even read Pyper’s other – more famous – “Lost Girls” if only to see if the idea of “literary thriller” exists or if my bias against the genre outweighs any strength in the writing,

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction, Mystery

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