by John Crowley

Bantam Spectra


456pp/$24.95/August 2000

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

John Crowley's Dæmonomania is the long-awaited third novel in his sequence which began with Ægypt in 1987.  Based on his quaternary system, Dæmonomania is set during the third, or Autumnal quaternary.  The story focuses on the efforts of Rosie Rasmussen to deal with her daughter's seizures.  Despite the doctor's diagnoses that Rosie shouldn't worry about Sam's episodes, Rosie remains troubled by witnessing them and decides that something can and must be done to cure them.  Rosie seeks the assistance of Pierce Moffett, a local author who is sympathetic to Rosie's fears and belief.

Although on the surface, Dæmonomania tells the story of Rosie's quest and a doomsday cult which is intent on bringing about the end of the world on Halloween, the novel demonstrates itself to be an existentialist work in its earliest pages.  Because of this, Dæmonomania will not be a book which everyone will enjoy.  Readers who are looking for a reasonably straight-forward plot will be disappointed.  This is not to imply that Crowley doesn't provide a plot, he does, but it meanders and takes a back seat to the philosophical speculation in which he indulges.

Despite being the third novel of a series, Dæmonomania can be read and enjoyed without knowledge of the previous books.  However, Dæmonomania does build on the philosophical arguments advanced in the earlier novels.  To gain the most out of the book, a reader should have some familiarity with what Crowley has already proposed.  Although lack of prior acquaintance may limit the reader's full appreciation of the discussion, it will not limit the appreciation of Crowley's writing.

Dæmonomania is a slow-moving novel, although the pace is reasonably steady.  Rather than focus on the plot (which does exist), Crowley is more anxious to look at the philosophical ramifications of the world in which his characters move.  The slow pace helps build tension as Crowley introduces the various forces which will come to a culmination with Rosie's planned Halloween Party.

Dæmonomania further cements the reputation Crowley has already built as a stylist of the first water.  Not a book to be consumed in one city, Dæmonomania is a book which cries out for the reader to invest as much energy and effort in each page as Crowley evidently did when writing the novel and promises to deliver value for the effort.

Purchase this book in hardcover from Amazon Books.

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