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The Devil in Silver: A Novel Hardcover – Aug 21 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Aug. 21 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400069866
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069866
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 16 x 23.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #296,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 24 2012
Format: Hardcover
"The Devil in Silver", one of the year's best novels, is a compelling blend of magical realism, horror and mainstream literary fiction; a great work of fiction that bends and transcends all of these genres, via a riveting odyssey into the darkest reaches of one man's soul. What LaValle has written is a superb example of psychological horror that compares favorably with the best from Clive Barker, Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, and Peter Straub, but one that will also impress mainstream audiences too in its poetically plain prose, crisp dialogue and surprisingly appropriate usage of avant-garde literary techniques found in the best fiction from notable writers like Rick Moody and Thomas Pynchon, while also daring to address often contentious issues in contemporary American society and culture ranging from faith to racism. It should be regarded too as LaValle's personal, heart-felt literary "valentine" to his native New York City borough of Queens, introducing us to a cast of characters as diverse and compelling as those in Jonathan Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn", but none more so than Pepper, the novel's blue collar white male protagonist. Mistakenly thrown into the run down psychiatric ward of New Hyde Hospital after wrestling with three plain clothes New York City cops, Pepper confronts not only his sanity and his sense of himself, but also a terror that lurks within the hospital itself; a living "demon" whose nocturnal visits to inmate-occupied rooms leave behind a bloody trail of mischief and mayhem, striking fear in the hearts of those inmates believing that a devil lurks inside the walls of New Hyde Hospital.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 109 reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
"It takes a lot of courage to live for someone." July 3 2012
By DanD - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Pepper is a big, simple-minded, but more-or-less good-hearted blue collar Brooklyn guy. Defending the honor of a woman who couldn't care less, he accidentally winds up fighting three cops who, through sheer laziness, admit him to New Hyde Hospital's psych ward for a mandatory 72-hour stay. But on his second night, Pepper is visited by a demonic fiend. Sad to say, it's not an hallucination, as everyone--patients and staff alike--seem to somehow acknowledge the beast's existence. But is it a man? Or is it, as Pepper begins to suspect, the Devil Himself?

THE DEVIL IN SILVER is not your typical horror novel. In fact, in most ways, it's not a horror novel at all. It wears the trappings--monster stalking psych ward patients--but it isn't really ABOUT the monster, so much as it is about its protagonist, the cast of quirky--but three-dimensional--supporting characters. Victor LaValle's novel is equal parts satire, dark comedy, and emotional character study. It has genuine twists and turns that you don't see coming; but it also has avant-garde characteristics such as an entire chapter devoted to the biography of Vincent Van Gogh, or the anthropomorphizing of a rather pitiable rat. Even these latter sections move along flawlessly, thanks to LaValle's expert prose (some sections read like poetry, while at the same time remaining realistic and true-to-life; Langston Hughes and Charles Bukowski come to mind).

This is a clever, funny, haunting, emotional novel. Hardcore horror fans may want to stay away, as you won't get your usual cliched trappings. But for people who like to see real intelligence and wit brought to genre fiction, who like to see such things as monsters and devils elevated to literary-quality status...THE DEVIL IN SILVER is a book you have to read.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Not What I Expected... Aug. 13 2012
By Yolanda S. Bean - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This book left me with some mixed feelings. The initial description left me to expect a sort of spooky, monster book all set in a mental institution. I thought it would be a horror-thriller combination. And there were definite moments of creepiness equal to the horror genre. The narrative perspective itself filled me with a different sort of horror - Pepper is checked into the mental institution by the NYPD who find it easier to turn people into this underfunded, understaffed asylum than spend unpaid overtime filling out the necessary paperwork to actually arrest him for the minor altercation.

But the book's narrative perspective (often filled with this type of parenthetical and often humourous omniscient observations) prevented the novel from maintaining its creepy atmosphere. The novel also went off on some substantial tangents - completely summarizing the plot of Peter Benchley's Jaws and the biography of Vincent Van Gogh. The point-of-view, though for the majority of the book aligns with Pepper, made some radical shifts - by the fortieth chapter, the P.O.V. is that of a large, gray rat. The scariness built up in the beginning of the book shifted to more of a social, racial and economic commentary.

Though in the end, Pepper found his purpose, the book had shifted so far from my original expectations that I felt a bit disconnected from it. It is, however, an interesting and surprisingly complex read and one that I may re-visit again in the future.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Literary Trifecta July 23 2012
By DAC - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Pepper is a regular hard working blue collar guy who is know to get in a bit of trouble. Though is most recent run in with the cops has him being committed for 48 hours at mental instiution in Queens, NY on a shoe string budget. Pepper soon finds himself lost in the system and making friends with the other patients, as they struggle to cope with the devil roaming the all and the minds of the residents. What I love about Lavalle's style is his ability to tell it straight, say something profound and make me laugh long and hard. That is a serious literary trifecta. The Devil in Silver is well layered and executed. If you've read Lavalle before this is a must read. If you haven't had the pleasure yet, this is a great place to begin.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Will the Real Devil Stand Up Aug. 31 2012
By Beverly Jackson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For a novel labeled as literary horror is was an absorbing yet strangely tender read raising questions through the wit, humor and dignity of the fascinating characters. The author gives voices to an invisible often misunderstood population. How Pepper became a resident in a psychiatric ward is totally believable and scary as who does not have some behavior in our pasts that could not be interpreted as a sign of mental illness. During his first night, Pepper is attacked by a hideous creature whose presence seems normal to both staff and patients. But, as Pepper is schooled on the protocols by the other residents - learning the creature is `the devil behind the silver door" is the visible demon as the more deadly demons are often the ones within the mind. Challenged by their restricted environment - the residents dig deep within themselves to slay the devil. It is the touching resident's stories that will linger long after the last page.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good (but not quite great) horror/thriller Aug. 20 2012
By WryGuy2 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In "the devil in silver", novelist Victor Lavalle spins a tale about a forty-something working class stiff, nick-named Pepper, who has some anger management issues and gets involuntarily admitted into a mental ward. He's dumped there by three plainclothes cops that Pepper fought with (not knowing that they were police officers) who decide to drop Pepper off into a mental ward rather than spend hours of unpaid overtime filling out the proper arrest forms, cynically justifying it by claiming that no sane man would fight three police officers single-handedly. While the involuntary admittance was supposed to last only three days, Pepper finds that he's to be locked in for a much longer period, until either he's arraigned before a judge on the assault charges or is found sane by the hospital staff, neither of which appears likely to happen soon. As typical of the patients in this hospital, he's also heavily medicated. And he discovers, first hand, that patients are being attacked by what they believe is the devil, also trapped in the mental ward behind a silver door.

There is a lot of good and a little bad (imho) in the book. First, the good. The main characters are well drawn and likeable/not likeable, depending on their role in the story. The novel's plot ... a man trapped in a mental ward while being stalked by evil ... is suitably original and fresh. And Mr Lavalle's writing is crisp, the tale moves briskly, and his style is by parts sly, humorous, and mildly horrifying.


First, about the devil. I get it that people often believe what they want to believe, but some parts of the devil's abilities, such as his goring people with his horns, isn't really explained at the end of the book. And when the staff knows that he's on the loose, they don't take any action to better secure him into his room, they basically just let him roam. While the staff is underpaid and somewhat jaded, it's tough to see them being that lackadaisical.

Second, the characters, while interesting in an overmedicated kind of way, don't really seem crazy enough to belong in a mental ward, especially in a public hospital with severe funding problems. I've seen much crazier people on the street back in the 1980s and 1990s after budget cuts forced a lot of mental hospitals to release a large portion of their patients. At best, most of the patients here seem eccentric, not incapable. In a severely fund constrained environment, this hospital would have been only able to afford to keep those most needing help, and few of the characters in the story seem that far from the norm. Additionally, there are some big questions about some of the characters that the author never answers, such as "Why was Dorry ever admitted to the hospital in the first place?"

Third, I think the author occasionally tries to be too clever. At times, he's writing a horror story. At other times, it's a biting social commentary. And finally, at times, he's writing black humor ... almost a cross between "Catch-22" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (which he references several times throughout the story). Don't get me wrong, though, as it's all well-written, but sometimes I had wished he had stuck to just one or two of the above and let the story flow, rather than shifting back and forth between the story types. And once, in an attempt to raise dramatic tension, he used a relatively cheap literary trick when he somewhat broke the flow of the story to state that Pepper would never see a certain person again except in a newspaper clipping, when pretty much to that point, the novel was sticking to what Pepper was experiencing moment by moment. I think that this plot element would have played out just as well without the foreshadowing, perhaps even better.

Ok, SPOILERS OVER. Regardless of my comments above, I did like the novel; I found it interesting and it made me think. It's a pretty good book, and is worthy of your time. However, after I finished I thought a lot about how this book could have been even more than good. I think it could have been great. But it's still good enough, as is, for four entertaining stars.

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