Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: The Monk. By William H. Hallahan

William H. Hallahan is hardly a prolific author. In the past forty years, since the start of his career as an author, he has written a dozen books (fiction and non-fiction); the most well-known is the supernatural thriller, The Search For Joseph Tully, considered by some to be a minor masterpiece of atmospheric horror.

The Monk, published in 1983, is another of what Hallahan calls his "occult novels", books which feature demons, psychics, astral projection, and epic battles between forces of Good and Evil. The Monk tells the story of a young man with a purple aura, a supremely benevolent human being destined to end the war between Satan and God's angels, led by fallen angel Timothy. Across thousands of years, the battle has raged on, with Satan and his minion, The Black Hawk, managing to kill each and every one of the children born with  purple auras, before Timothy and his familiar, a dog named Repentance, could get to them and complete the ceremony required to win the war against The Devil. What ensues is partly a chase novel, partly a metaphysical/mystical thriller, about a young man trapped between two warring cosmic forces that both want him for their own.

The Monk is a bizarre book. It is a sprawling and somewhat disjointed story, jumping from the creation of Man, to Heaven and Hell, to present day New York, to set-pieces featuring demons, banshees, and devils, to a love story between the book's protagonist and his lover, to a monastery which houses a possible Satan-worshiper! That is not to say that The Monk is a bad book, or even an average one. Far from it. This is an endlessly compelling story, energetically told. But Hallahan's straightforward prose occasionally is too flavorless for its own good, while the novel's first part is so convoluted that I almost gave up on it before getting to the good stuff, about halfway into the book.

But what Hallahan has going for him is the sheer readability of the book. No matter how strange and disjointed the story gets, one just can't stop reading! Which, I guess, is a sure sign of a good book, or, at least, a hell of an entertaining one.

Although flawed, with the climax being especially disappointing, this is one fun ride, with scenes of brilliantly conceived suspense, and a hypnotic, dreamy atmosphere. Recommended.

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