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by Dale Peck

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4165-7612-9
Publisher: Atria

Peck (The Lost Cities: A Drift House Voyage, 2007, etc.) constructs a gothic story in lively prose, to ultimately soul-destroying effect.

Demonic possession, the narrator informs us, goes back thousands of years, long before the era when Jesus cast out demons. In more recent times, some of these same demons have chosen contemporary hosts, such as high-school friends Q. and Jasper. It seems that demons can only possess people once, but they can jump from host to host by having orgasmic sex. The former hosts, called gatherers, retain a residual awareness of their demons; a few of them become hunters (gatherers/hunters: get it?), who try to track down the nasty forces that temporarily inhabited them. And these demons can be very nasty indeed: The novel is filled with eviscerations, decapitations, castrations, voracious (and violent) sexual encounters—activities not confined solely to the demons. If the atmosphere wasn’t so dread-filled, some of the hosts could be considered comical. Jarhead West, for example, a sordid wastrel whose only interests are having sex and getting drunk, or Lawrence Bishop, an EMT with a criminal past and a yen for a luscious young doctor. The narrative begins antiphonally, alternating the stories of Q. and Jasper on one hand (Q. is literally driven to crash his father’s Porsche into a cliff while his girlfriend performs oral sex) and on the other Ileana Magdalen (though she also goes by other names), a hunter preparing to kill a Mogran, as the demonically possessed are called. One of the slickest and most loathsome demons is Leo, who gleefully hops, skips and jumps from one host to another in a series of diversions that bewilder the hosts, the hunters and the reader.

Too clever for its own good—the labyrinthine plot eventually becomes mind-numbingly impenetrable.