Bookmarks Issue: 
Award Year: 

A-PandemoniumDaryl Gregory has published short stories in several magazines and anthologies. Pandemonium is his debut novel.

The Story: As a child, Del Pierce was possessed by a demon. But in this alternate world, demonic possession is not an unusual experience, even though it is not a frequent one, either. While most of the inhabitants are likely to experience only one demonic possession in their lifetimes, several soul-stealing suspects are well known. Among them are the artistically inclined Painter, the plane-crashing Kamikaze, and the Hellion, who possesses young boys like Del and uses them to torment their families. As an adult, Del has never really gotten over his experience; in fact, he suspects the Hellion might have never left. If the Hellion still possesses him, Del may provide some insight into what exactly is happening to the human race, even if the insight doesn’t help him better understand the human condition.
Del Rey. 288 pages. $13. ISBN: 0345501160

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"For die-hard science fiction fans, there’s also pleasure in discovering that, in at least one alternate timeline, Philip K. Dick is still alive, although possessed by an entity that calls itself VALIS. All in all, Pandemonium is a wickedly clever entertainment." Michael Berry

SciFi Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Pandemonium is inventive, quirky and darkly humorous, with a hero whose journey is far from typical, taking readers down an often creepy road to some very unexpected places. Gregory creates two fascinating families—one human, one demonic—and brings them together in a catastrophic collision whose outcome is surprisingly poignant." A. M. Dellamonica 4 of 5 Stars
"Del’s story follows the model of mental illness. … It’s a particularly good portrait of the sort of human condition less often addressed in genre lit: even when mental illness/difference is the trope (of which there are nigh-unto-infinite examples) stories often fail to address the impact on families." Karen Burnham

Critical Summary

Reviewers were happy to see a fresh take on a well-worn subject of sci-fi and horror stories: demonic possession. They suggested that by creating a world where demons are commonplace, Gregory has in fact found a way of making the subject novel. Critics were even more impressed by Pandemonium’s well-developed characters. As one reviewer noted, the possessions of the story affect the trajectories of the characters’ lives in the same way as mental illness, without transforming this novel into an allegory. The book includes many insider references to other sci-fi works, which may turn off some readers; however, the critics concluded that while Gregory may occasionally channel the spirits of A. E. van Vogt and Philip K. Dick, his voice is strong enough to speak for itself.