Daryl Gregory’s Pandemonium is another one of those rare books that I really wished was longer than it was. I picked the book up from the library yesterday and read the whole thing in one go; I just couldn’t put it down. The premise is absolutely fascinating, and I would have loved the opportunity to learn more about the world that the author created.
As the back cover of the book says, the world of Pandemonium is just like ours except for the fact that some people get possessed by cultural archetypes, Jungian archetypes–not demons. When possessed by archetypes like the Truth, the Kamikaze, or the Little Angel, the possessed person has to act out whatever the archetypes role is: as a judge punishing liars, crashing planes, or giving dying people the kiss of death (respectively). The book is intersperced with short stories about particular appearances by the archetypes. I would have loved to have read more about those, but the book is only 288 pages long. Damn, I wish that it would have been longer.
The story is narrated by Del, a man who was once possessed by the Hellion (a Dennis the Menace-like troublemaker). After a car accident, he realizes that the Hellion is still with him and he begins a quest to try and have the archetype exorcised before he hurts someone. Along the way, Del discovers the reason why the archetypes started possessing people in the late 1940s.
Let me back up. At the beginning of the book, I was surprised to see so many different archetypes that I wasn’t all that familiar with. Granted, I’m no Jungian expert, but I had never heard of the Kamikaze before, for example. It didn’t fit in with the more traditional archetypes like the Father or the Trickster. Without giving away the other big plot twist, Del discovers that the archetypes are really coming from comic books from the Golden Age of comics. At first, I was a little dismayed by this revelation. I mean seriously, comic books? I was really interested in the idea of the collecctive unconscious and all the Jungian stuff. That’s why I picked up the book in the first place. But I saw the comic book explanation as next to the aliens as deus ex machina plot device that I really hate. (I’m look at you Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Stargate.) But as the idea grew on me, I found that I could go along with it and evevn start to enjoy it.
I don’t think I can recommend this book too much. I really enjoyed reading it, and I sincerely hope that Gregory writes more like it. I don’t care if he uses the same characters, I just want another book set in this world. The premise is so rich that I don’t think I could ever get bored with it. Absolutely fantastic.