Stephen's Reviews > Pandemonium

Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory
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FANTERRIFIC STORY ALERT. I love finding original, diamonds like this cuz it makes my brain go...

As other astute people have chimed, this story turned out to be much deeper and a lot different than I originally expected (in a yippie, yippie good way). This book was such an enjoyable experience and made me want get a serious preach on sermonizing its greatness. While containing elements of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I don’t think the novel neatly fits into any of those containers and spills uniqueness over the cup of any genre that tries to hold it. I'm gonna just wimp out and label it speculative fiction and move on because I am not the person to decide the proper name of new genre bending categories. However, that doesn't mean I'm not willing to throw on my Leopard mankini and Tarzan out singing the praises of this story. Oh, I will. You, just watch me.

The story takes the unique approach of combining the scientific/biological study of mental illness with demonic possession and creating a combined phenomenon that is very compelling. The blending of these two components was worth three "Fuck Yeahs" and a "You go Boy" all by itself.


The story takes place in an alternate version of the United States where, beginning around the 1940’s, demonic possession has become a recognized and accepted phenomenon. However, the demonic possession in the story is quite different from our common perception of possession. Here, each “demon” has a particular trait/compulsion that they exhibit every time they appear. There is the “Painter” who appears at the very beginning of the story and shuts down an airport terminal while it creates a picture of a farmhouse out of smashed popcorn. Other identified demons include “Captain,” “Smokestack Johnny,” “The Truth,” “Little Angel,” “Kamikaze” and “Hellion.” I will leave it to you to learn what each of the demons signature actions are because that is part of the enjoyment of the story.

Anyway, most possessions last a very short time (minutes to hours) and the interruptions caused by the incidents have basically become a part of life (like the Painter scene described above). Possessions occur much more often in people that have previously suffered some form of mental illness. In addition, once subject to a possession, victims often suffer after effects very similar to various forms of mental illness, even if not previously diagnosed with such a condition. This tie-in between possession and mental illness was delicious and gave the story an added depth and richness that was very compelling. For instance, just look at the similarities between these two real life examples:


I think the above gives a pretty good idea about the background of the story and I want to make sure I don’t spoil any of the fun of the book. Therefore, as far as the plot, I will just say that the main character, Del Pierce, was possessed by the demon known as the Hellion when he was a wee lad. Years later, Del is still struggling with the after effects of the possession and desperately wants to find away to get rid of his symptoms. The rest of the story is Del’s incredible journey to find a way to cure himself. There are so many great pop culture references and tie-ins during the story that I went completely Chumbawamba while I was reading it. I don't want to spill the franks or the beans about them because they are such funsies to casually bump into so I will just say that they include super heroes, science fiction writers, secret societies, folklore monsters, an alternate “end” to the OJ trial and a Vast Active Living Intelligence System (okay so I spoiled that one but it's in the book description so you can’t blame me).


Overall, a very unique and original reading experience. I thought the writing was great and the author’s use of tone was excellent. It was often full of humor and yet also had an underlying sense of deep loneliness and sadness. It is tough to walk that fine line and I think the author did a great job. Highly Recommended!!!! 4.0 to 4.5 stars

Nominee: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
Nominee: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Lit.
Nominee: World Fantasy Award
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-15 of 15) </span> <span class="smallText">(15 new)</span>

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message 1: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I am voting mostly because I just love that pig commercial. But also, great review. :)

Jason Gregory's second novel (The Devil's Alphabet) is equally good, and completely different. And I just snagged his forthcoming third (Raising Stony Mayhall), which is being pitched as a cross between zombie fiction and A Prayer for Owen Meany. He's a remarkable new talent....

message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim You interested me in a new author. Thanks.

Stephen Mike wrote: "Gregory's second novel (The Devil's Alphabet) is equally good, and completely different. And I just snagged his forthcoming third (Raising Stony Mayhall), which is being pitched as a cross between..."

I have Devil's Alphabet and will look for his new book as well. I completely agree that he a remarkable talent.

Stephen Jim wrote: "You interested me in a new author. Thanks."

I hope you like it Jim. I think you will.

Lori Ooooo, didn't realize he had a 2nd book. Wah! Too many books to read, stresses me out! I had the same experience reading Pandemonium.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

How am I just now finding you! Love it!

Stephen deesreads wrote: "How am I just now finding you! Love it!"

Thank you. I am glad you liked it. That is very nice t hear.

message 9: by Lea (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lea Why oh why oh why didn't I read this BEFORE hitting the bookstore tonight???

message 10: by Lea (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lea Fuck it. That's what amazon 1 click is for. Aaaaaaand . . . done.

Stephen Lea wrote: "Why oh why oh why didn't I read this BEFORE hitting the bookstore tonight???"

This is a really good book, Lea. I am tempted to push this up to 5 stars because it has been months and I still have such strong feelings about the read.

P.S. I hope you just read this review in the last few minutes, because I just went back and fixed a bunch of typos. I need to proofread better.

Stephen Lea wrote: "Fuck it. That's what amazon 1 click is for. Aaaaaaand . . . done."


message 13: by Lea (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lea Enabler!

Stephen Guilty as charged. ;)

message 15: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu I love the GEICO commercial.

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