The Boy Who Killed Demons
Since age 13, Henry Dudlow sees some people as horrendous demons, and not due to pubescent hormonal imbalance. Perhaps “what I’m seeing is what they’re like inside --- sort of like their essence.” Most see suburban Boston neighbors as they appear, but Henry sees some with “flaming red skin, yellow eyes, horns, grotesque faces,” even after Halloween. Of this, Henry has proof: leashed dogs nearly choke themselves trying to avoid those denizens. They are demons, only posing as people, and plan on “opening the gates of hell” during a bizarre ritual that involves 39 caged children just under age four, their eyes sewn shut.
"The theme I found heartbreaking is that a teen feels compelled to kill what appears to everyone else as human. How many saw Hitler for what he was and did not end the horror before it began?"
Told through Henry’s meticulously kept journal meant to reveal all he has learned about Satan’s servants, in the event he becomes the boy killed by demons, each chapter pulls the reader into Henry’s morass. He wants to be a normal teen, but his Don Quixote-like quandary is caused by very real demons, not imaginary giants posing as windmills. Is Henry delusional or the world’s caretaker? Phone photos of the demons depict them as normal people. Well, except demon Scott Weston. “He’s a lawyer.”
Henry comes across L’Occulto Illuminato, a 17th-century text that details how to kill demons. The thing is, it costs $30,000 and is written in archaic Italian, and Henry learns that language to comprehend the demon-destroying protocol. Will strictly following the instructions help Henry prevail? He leaps --- and often stumbles --- at every imaginable hurdle. How does a teen get about a city as large as metropolitan Boston at night, when the demons are home alone? How does one evade school authorities and police when carrying a foot-long dagger?
The theme I found heartbreaking is that a teen feels compelled to kill what appears to everyone else as human. How many saw Hitler for what he was and did not end the horror before it began?
Like Stephen King, Dave Zeltserman makes the incredible come alive. I never conceived that something as mundane as weeds could be the venue for a horror tale, but THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD convinced me otherwise. (In DEMONS, Zeltserman brilliantly incorporates a character named Lorna Field.) Following MONSTER, however, Zeltserman’s latest offering offsets horror to the point of this being more in the vein of fantasy. This is also the coming-of-age tale of a teen who plots his life’s path “to save this world from being overrun by hell.”
And you thought bullies were the bane of every teen.
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on October 17, 2014