John Crowley's powerfully mysterious Dæmonomania
adds flesh to the world he imagined in Ægypt
and Love and Sleep
. In this book, as in all his books, Crowley transports faithful readers to a place where time, place, and meaning come unstuck. It is in some ways the story of the end of the world as it might be, or might have been, a novel of history, eschatology, and faith with unforgettable characters and hauntingly lovely sentences. If the world's end is neither bang nor whimper but "like the shivers that pass over a horse's skin," how is it perceived by the people living through it?
Historian Pierce Moffett finds his key to understanding in New York state's Faraway Hills, as do his lover, Rose Ryder, and single mom Rosie Rasmussen, whose daughter seems to suffer from dæmonomania--spiritual possession by Renaissance magician John Dee. Each character must pick a careful path between the colliding juggernauts of past and present, magic and mundane. The wind of apocalypse is blowing:
"Scary wind.... What if it's the one?" she said.
"What one?" he said.... He in fact knew what one, for it was from him that she had heard mythologies of wind, how it bloweth where it listeth, one part of Nature not under God's thumb and therefore perhaps at the disposal of our Enemy; she had heard his stories about changer winds, how one had once blown away the Spanish Armada and thus saved England from Catholic conquest, a famous wind which if you went to look for it in the records of the time wasn't there.
In typical Crowley style, magic is seamlessly woven into the narrative. Pierce is writing the story of the end of the world while it happens, Rose joins a cult that promises salvation, and Rosie inherits a spooky legacy that might hold the secret to saving her daughter. All are involved in deep exchanges of power, and all must yield to what Crowley calls the "queasy pressure of Fate."
Crowley describes Dæmonomania best when he writes about Pierce's book: "The book... was about magic, secret histories, and the End of the World, an event that Pierce would suggest was under way undetectably even as he wrote, as the reader read." This is a complex, disturbing, and beautiful book, one that will bear rereading. Crowley's writing is gorgeous in places, frustrating in others, but always irresistible. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Combining brilliant storytelling with mind-catching philosophical musings, Crowley's (Little, Big) latest novel pushes fantasy fiction toward its most thrilling, intelligent heights. Set in a time and place that are both invented and naggingly familiar, this tale tells of a collection of average people who begin to think their world's out of whack. From the small (misplaced keys that somehow turn up), to the mid-sized (a child who claims with chilling plausibility to have lived previously) and the large (the way causes seem to be following effects, not vice versa), things are just getting weird. At the outset, Pierce Moffett, 35, a failed history professor, has departed New York for LittlevilleDwhere he's living on a book advance, writing the manuscript of a speculative history. Meanwhile, he's casually falling in love with Rose Ryder, a 28-year-old who's having an early midlife crisis. Right there the plot gets skillfully complicated. Ryder, who's also sleeping with one Mike Mucho, gets entangled with a cult of coercive Christian "healers" led by Ray Honeybeare. Mucho, who's also a Honeybeare follower, is trying to wrest his young, epileptic daughter from his estranged wife, Rosie Rasmussen. And Rasmussen is planning a Halloween party that might bring about Honeybeare's doomsday plans. Crowley intersperses this set of stories with accounts of 17th-century heretics, like the Dominican monk Bruno, a wandering philosopher who believed each man's view of the world was relative to his positionDwhich is the philosophy structuring Crowley's layered narrative, making it uncommonly reflective. Bruno's "Picatrix" manuscript, supposedly discovered by Moffett while writing his book, loosely ties Crowley's various story lines together as Rasmussen tries to save her daughter from Honeybeare, and Ryder runs off to find herself. Told in absorbing if occasionally dense, even difficult, prose, this novel is a satisfyingly long, intricate and unusually meditative offering from one of the field's finest. (Aug.)
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