Pandemonium is a novel set in a world exactly like ours, except for one thing – possession is real, and can happen to anyone. The story’s protagonist Del, experiences one such possession in his childhood, after a swimming accident. Now many years later, Del is involved in a car crash and the demon – known as the Hellion – is back inside his head. Del struggles with this other being fighting for dominance inside his own head. Del also struggles with having no recollection of his night time wanderings (or wolfing out, as he labels it) in which the demon is most active. Pandemonium follows Del in his search for someone who can help him be free of the Hellion inside his head.
The premise alone for this book blew me away. Imagine living in a world where at any moment a being could take over your whole person and force you to do whatever it likes? Firstly although on goodreads and Amazon the book is pegged as a horror, Pandemonium does not really fall into any particular genre. There are elements of science fiction, horror and a few other things besides. I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy alternative histories, the work of Philip K. Dick and anyone who loves a puzzle as this book kept me guessing right to the very end.
The story opens with Del in an airport, witnessing a possession taking place in another passenger. This moment for me felt incredibly realistic as the demon now in control of the man starts making a picture on the floor using materials around the airport – being possessed by the demon known as ‘the painter.’ The people around him have no choice but to stand around him, the police have cordoned off the area, and people begin to grumble about the delay – as they would do in everyday life. These little snapshots of people in the background made the story feel incredibly realistic. Most notable are the conferences on possession, the scientific experiments and the protests – these all make it seem like demon possession is something that could easily happen in our world.
Author Charles Coleman Finlay states “Look out, Lethem! Daryl Gregory mixes pop culture and pathos, flavoring it with Philip K. Dick. Pandemonium possesses every quality you want in a great novel, and the good news is it’s only his debut.” This is something I really loved. I’m a massive science fiction fan, and the pop culture references are just great, Philip K. Dick is featured, being possessed by a demon himself. There are lots of comic book references, which adds to the mixing pot to make a wonderful story.
One thing I must mention before I round off, is that in between the chapters there are little short stories, snippets of accounts of people who have witnessed possessions. It gives you an insight into the different demons in the world, the way they behave and how you can recognise them. I really loved this, it gives you a greater insight into how the possession occurs and why they behave. My favourite had to be the ‘Little Angel’ a demon who possesses little girls, an eerie Shirley Temple type figure, who visits hospitals and bestows the kiss of death on patients.
This is Gregory’s debut novel, and has since published several other novels. Pandemonium is the sort of story that makes you want to run to the nearest bookshop and buy everything he’s ever written (and I suggest you do!) Pandemonium is an exceptionally clever book with moments of great humour, as well as great sadness, and although at times you are not always clear what is happening, it all adds to the suspense of the ending. There is a great twist near the end, but my lips are sealed – I would not want to spoil it! Gregory leaves little hints along the way, and on finishing I found the urge to start from the beginning again, just to see if I could pick up on all the little breadcrumbs. I immensely enjoyed Pandemonium and I sincerely look forward to reading more of Gregory’s work.