The further adventures of an intelligent, book-loving, body-swapping demon.
“I am such a coward,” thinks Samuel Beauchamp, the main character in Siemsen’s (A Warm Place to Call Home, 2013) latest novel, about a winningly confessional demon who’s “seemingly immortal, yet afraid of everything.” Samuel had been an ordinary teenager in 1930s California until he was hit by a truck and killed—only to find his consciousness was able to leap from body to body at will. Panicked and disoriented, he first takes possession of the driver who “killed” him, and it’s a jarring transition: “I smelled the dirt, the trees, the sharp aftershave from the cheeks and neck. My cheeks and neck. I was in control of this body now.” Samuel must learn the physics of this thing he does; for instance, if he’s not careful when he leaves the body of someone he’s possessing, he’ll leave them in a vegetative state, their minds wiped clean of all thought and memory. Not being the vindictive sort, he has no wish to do such a thing, and he gradually learns to slip in and out of his host bodies more gently. Still, there are details to adapt to: “Strange pains, different strengths, sensitivities, allergies, hair growth.” Samuel can’t access his hosts’ memories and must therefore figure out their lives on the go, and fortunately, Siemsen acutely and entertainingly works out the mechanics of the uncanny maneuver. This new set of adventures can be enjoyed independently of its predecessor, as bibliophile Samuel settles into life as a librarian in East Harlem until he encounters others of his kind roaming the world. In time, he meets Gregor, a revolting fellow demon who’s chosen a radically different approach to immortality than Samuel, and their confrontation provides a riveting climax.
A fascinating, at times moving story of a demon looking for normalcy.