It’s release day and we have a review by John for: The Devil in Silver ~ by Victor Lavalle (ACR copy)
In a Kafkaesque turn of event someone is submitted to a psychiatric unit who shouldn’t be. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do – in the dead of night patients are being attacked by some demonic creature which the staff might possibly be protecting.
About: Pepper is a big man who is a bit impetuous and tends to charge at life without thinking things through. Sometimes that can get him in trouble, and on one fateful night it leaves him in the hands of three out-of-uniform policemen, who promptly take him to the psychiatric unit of a run-down local hospital. He really shouldn’t be there, but it seems that the police have to fill in far less paperwork if they drop people off at the hospital rather than arrest them. So Pepper is admitted for 72 hours while he is to be evaluated.
In a Kafkaesque turn of events the 72 hours turns into an indefinite period, and Pepper finds himself confined to the ward with a bunch of strange people – some of whom are patients and some of whom are staff. As if that weren’t bad enough, Pepper is viciously attacked by a strange demonic creature that seems to haunt the unit. Can it really be that the staff who rescued him know all about the creature? Surely not, as it turns out that others on the ward have also been attacked.
Pepper finally forms a kind of bond with three of his disparate fellow patients, and together they slowly come to the conclusion that they have to do something to save themselves from an ugly fate at the hands of the demon.
John’s thoughts: This is a serious-but-fun read with a really novel plot. For sure it brought to mind images of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at times, but Pepper is nothing like McMurphy and doesn’t rail against the system in the same way.
Nonetheless, one of Pepper’s biggest foes is the daily regime of mind-numbing drugs and the boring routine of life on the ward. And how can life be so crazy that a sane person becomes embedded in a system that is supposedly there to help look after insane people? The novel also brings to light the crazy logic of bureaucracy and systems that are not designed to help people, but instead develop a life and self-perpetuating momentum of their own. It becomes quite clear that it is not the patients who are the maddest and in the most need of treatment. The demonic monster then acts as a catalyst to bring things to a head, by which time you are rooting for a fair outcome for the gang of four patients.
I like this book a lot. For sure Pepper is far from being perfect but you know that he shouldn’t be in the hospital and you do want his life to return to some sort of normality – you cannot help but become involved in the plight of the patients. Meanwhile, the madness that surrounds him is both funny and scary. I’d rate this book 4 stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a slightly wacky view of life in their reading material.
For more about this new author link to his website: http://www.victorlavalle.com/