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The Divinity Student Paperback – April, 1999

14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Short but powerful, this neo-gothic novel, which is illustrated by Harry O. Morris, uses the crisp immediacy of the present tense to lead the reader on a hallucinatory journey from humanity to inhuman transcendence. After a miraculous recovery from near death, a young man known only as the Divinity Student is beset by strange dreams whose lingering effects further alienate him from his fellows. Abruptly, he is sent away from the chill, damp confines of the seminary to work as a word-finder in the vibrant, chaotic desert city of San Veneficio, scanning old texts to record any unknown words he may find. There he is pulled into a covert plot to reconstruct the lost Catalog of Unknown Words, a tome of "secret words, ghost-words and completely new," which could lead to an understanding of "the essential substance... the source of all renewal... the synthesis of all natural forces." Developing a weird black alchemy that he uses to literally absorb information from the brains of long-dead scholars, the Divinity Student steals away the remnants of their essence as he steals their corpses for his work. Swiftly, his desire to know deepens to obsession, pushing him further and further from sanity, risking everything to complete the Catalog and gain true understanding. Cisco wields words in sweeping, sensual waves, skillfully evoking multiple layers of image and metaphor. Though his novel is brief, it is a gem of literate dark fantasy, concisely illustrating the power, both light and dark, of words and meaning. Author tour. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


THE DIVINITY STUDENT, the first novel from Michael Cisco, is a "festival of unrealities, an entrancing body of hallucinations mutilated with surgical precision by a masterful literary maniac" -- Thomas Ligotti

Product Details

  • Paperback: 149 pages
  • Publisher: Buzzcity Pr; 1 edition (April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 096522001X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965220019
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,606,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael Scott on August 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
If Michael Cisco's _The Divinity Student_ is remembered for one thing it will be for the magnificent way that Cisco strings his words together. As a previous reviewer has already noted, this book is a feast for devotees of the written word.
I cannot claim to have fully understood every page of this novel. It is not an easy read. It forces you to read each and every paragraph carefully and even then you need to apply yourself to understand the words on the page.
The Divinity Student is thrown out of the seminary after he is apparently struck dead by lightning. He is brought back to life by a mysterious group of people who gut his corpse and stuff him full of pages from a mysterious book. He is put to work as a word-finder. He soon learns that there is a book full of lost and possibly forbidden words; 'the Catalog'. He is approached by a representative of an underground organization who tells him that he, The Divinity Student, has been chosen to do something or other with the Catalog.
The Divinity Student soon finds that the Catalog has been destroyed. He learns of 12 deceased word-finders who were the authors of the Catalog. He, along with his butcher, finds the corpses, drains them of their essence and begins recreating the Catalog.
_The Divinity Student_ is a dense story, but it is very, very fascinating. Cisco changes scenes often which makes it difficult to follow the story. His writing style is gorgeous. It makes this story worth reading for the subtle nuances of the English language alone. As I said, I did not fully understand this story. I suspect it will benefit from a re-reading or two. I do not understand the significance of the cats in the street. I am perplexed by the apparently sentient cars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By jason potocki on May 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
There is a short author's note at the end of "The Divinity Student" where Michael Cisco describes his notion that the act of reading induces a trance-like state, and how his ambition was to produce a work that made one feel as if the words were being dreamt rather than read.
He succeeded. Brilliantly.
This work stands as a bizarre exploration of the surreal and macabre. The story, set in a time and place which are indeterminate, revolves around a divinity student who has been reanimated from death. He is given a mission to move to an old city and take up work as a "wordfinder". That is to say, one who finds and records words which exist but are not official components of language. They are unconsciously written and spoken but never recognized or defined. This develops into a deeper quest to recover the contents of the Book of Words, which had contained the diction of a powerful, pure, and divine language but has since been destroyed. To do this, he must employ strange, mystical techniques on the decomposing corpses of the book's original compilers and thus retrieve this knowledge. As more information is acquired, the divinity student drifts farther and farther from our world into supernaturalism, black magic, and ghoulish power.
The narrative proceeds with an entirely unique cadence as there is a disquietingly smooth flow from one bizarre event to another. The pace and candor, which are sleepy and strangely matter-of-fact, sharply contrast the content, which is immensely dark and bloated with odd, frightening events and with starkly hallucinatory sequences. The reader feels as if they are drifting effortlessly and naturally from one deranged moment to the next, much as they would in a dream.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Wow. I was genuinely blown away by this little novel. I have heard Cisco compared to Ligotti (there is even a Ligotti blurb on the back), but his work is entirely unique, a bizarre marriage of disturbing surrealism and dark fantasy rendered in a highly original prose style. The book is worth reading for the prose alone, which replicates the effects of a dream, at times blurry and indiscriminate and sharpening to crystalline detail at other moments. The imagery is some of the most simultaeneously beautiful and nightmarish that I have ever experienced save in the work of Kafka, Schulz or Ligotti. The plot moves with a raw, pulsating power, and the book induces bizarrre emotions in the reader which have their only corollary in dreams (or nightmares). The last chapter is one of the most bleak and moving pieces of prose that I have encountered in weird fiction. Simply put, if you are a lover of surrealism or dark fantasy, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.
NOTE: This book is being reprinted in The San Veneficio Canon, to be published by Night Shade Press. The San Veneficio Canon will also include the sequel to The Divinity student.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Price on June 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Michael Cisco has in The Divinity Student performed the feat declared impossible by the only other member of his sub-sub-genre, Thomas Ligotti: he has wrought a nightmare vignette of depressive elation, nihilistic revelation, in novel (okay, novella) length. It is a weird journey to be compared only with the eerie and stunning impact of reading Ligotti's own Songs of a Dead Dreamer. I wish Cisco's new fans good hunting as they now go in search, as they must, to find his several short stories, including "The Reliquaries," "Translation," "He Will Be there," "For No Eyes," "The Water Nymphs," "Firebrands of Terror," and others. His Divinity Student is like Ligotti's Vastarien, the book that is not about a thing, but is that thing.
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