John Crowley's powerfully mysterious Dæmonomania adds flesh to the world he imagined in Ægypt and Love and Sleep. In this book, as in all his books, Crowley transports faithful readers to a place where time, place, and meaning come unstuck. It is in some ways the story of the end of the world as it might be, or might have been, a novel of history, eschatology, and faith with unforgettable characters and hauntingly lovely sentences. If the world's end is neither bang nor whimper but "like the shivers that pass over a horse's skin," how is it perceived by the people living through it?
Historian Pierce Moffett finds his key to understanding in New York state's Faraway Hills, as do his lover, Rose Ryder, and single mom Rosie Rasmussen, whose daughter seems to suffer from dæmonomania--spiritual possession by Renaissance magician John Dee. Each character must pick a careful path between the colliding juggernauts of past and present, magic and mundane. The wind of apocalypse is blowing:
"Scary wind.... What if it's the one?" she said.
"What one?" he said.... He in fact knew what one, for it was from him that she had heard mythologies of wind, how it bloweth where it listeth, one part of Nature not under God's thumb and therefore perhaps at the disposal of our Enemy; she had heard his stories about changer winds, how one had once blown away the Spanish Armada and thus saved England from Catholic conquest, a famous wind which if you went to look for it in the records of the time wasn't there.
In typical Crowley style, magic is seamlessly woven into the narrative. Pierce is writing the story of the end of the world while it happens, Rose joins a cult that promises salvation, and Rosie inherits a spooky legacy that might hold the secret to saving her daughter. All are involved in deep exchanges of power, and all must yield to what Crowley calls the "queasy pressure of Fate."
Crowley describes Dæmonomania best when he writes about Pierce's book: "The book... was about magic, secret histories, and the End of the World, an event that Pierce would suggest was under way undetectably even as he wrote, as the reader read." This is a complex, disturbing, and beautiful book, one that will bear rereading. Crowley's writing is gorgeous in places, frustrating in others, but always irresistible. --Therese Littleton