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Landscape of Demons and the Book of Sara
Gabriel Devlin Kessler
Millenium Press, 233 pages

Landscape of Demons
Gabriel Devlin Kessler
About the novel, Gabriel Devlin Kessler says:
"Although the experiences in my novel are drawn, in part, from my life, I did not become Steve Goldblatt because in the house of my childhood lived a grandmother who loved me. Despite the horrors children are exposed to, they are resilient if some time during their childhood they hear a kind word, are shown a shred of caring, are given even a small smile. In our dealings with children, each of us has the capacity to shape the future -- either for good or evil. My father is on death row, but because my grandmother made warm bread for me on Saturdays, my life took a different path."

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Millenium Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

Word is, Landscape of Demons is causing a great deal of controversy. I can see why. I can also see why every person who can withstand it needs the experience of reading Kessler's disturbing masterpiece.

Many years ago, I knew of a man who read Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun in one sitting, rushed to the bathroom, vomited, then sat down to read it again. If you've read the anti-war novel, you know exactly what I mean. And, you'll understand when I say Landscape of Demons is the only book I've read since Trumbo's that affected me as strongly. I bypassed the vomiting portion, but felt the urge at times.

There is no gore in Landscape of Demons. There are no brains splattered, no hearts ripped beating from chests, no loathsome monsters -- not in a literal sense. The violence and horror in this startling novel are of the more personal, less visible kind. Given the choice of living out Steve Goldblatt's life, though, I would opt for a quick death, no matter what the method. Anything to escape the appalling suffering he internalizes, storing it up for later.

An alternate title could have been "Circle of Sociopathy," or, perhaps, the "Genuine Making of a Serial Killer," although it never devolves into such an easy and obvious end. Landscape of Demons fits admirably, though, for the entire story takes place and is seen through the warped filter of Goldblatt's brain. The damage is done before the reader arrives; an irreversible blend of mental illness and torture chamber environment that could only produce the less-than-human monstrosity the narrator becomes. The outcome is as inescapable as it is horrifying.

It is a demanding read -- draining in its subject matter, nightmarish in its implications -- but astonishing in its brilliance. The fact that this is Kessler's first novel is astonishing. His control over the disjointed and disturbed flow in the lead character's mind never lapses. There are times when it is difficult to judge whether an event is actually occurring: as difficult for Goldblatt as the reader. The ability to convey the plot and the action through such a distorted lens is both rare and amazing. Many established authors would be at a loss to crawl so deeply into the mind of madness and return with a coherent story.

Landscape of Demons is horror of the most terrifying sort. This is the atrocity that surrounds us at all times, hidden behind cheerful kitchen curtains and appearances at the PTA. It is the torture of the trapped. It is watching the training of the next shift of torturers. And being utterly unable to intercede to stop the nightmare.

Copyright © 1998 Lisa DuMond

Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. She co-authored the 45th anniversary issue cover of MAD Magazine. Previews of her latest, as yet unpublished, novel are available at Hades Online.

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