The Devil is Dead Hardcover – Apr 1978
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
R. A. Lafferty, however, is breathtakingly different. I can guarantee that you haven't seen the world the way Lafferty does--and you'll enjoy the experience.
THE DEVIL IS DEAD is some of his best writing and most inventive strangeness. Sure, the plot doesn't really (I think) go anywhere, but recursive endings and silly loops are welcome any time they come packaged in this delightful and enlightening a read, with such a motely crew of Lafferty outlaws, drunks, monsters and sailors. The Promantia alone is worth the price of admission. If you want a book that's hilarious, deep, wise, frightening and beautiful, look no further. If you want a conventional plot or tidy resolution, look elsewhere.
Finnegan, the chief protagonist, is adapted from the character Finn McCool of Irish legend, and parts of the saga derive from that legendarium; he also, however, partakes to some extent of the nature of Jason, the hero we normally associate with the Argo. Further--though one can read the saga without needing to know this--Lafferty has adopted the Argo itself as symbolic of the Roman Catholic Church, of which Lafferty was--to put it mildly--an ardent adherent.
This novel, the saga, the entirety of Lafferty's work: it is all literary genius of a high order, something the casual reader may miss owing to Lafferty's very down-to-earth writing style, which in many ways is almost conversational in tone. But then, the definition of a professional is someone who makes it all look easy.
This book has stayed with me like a splinter in the mind. I don't know exactly what it is about it, but I find myself thinking about it time and again. Lafferty really deserves to have his major works back in print.
This book is funny, exciting, thought-provoking, and very beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone that likes Vonnegut-esque blending of fantasy and reality. I love those types of tales when they are done right and this one is. I kept my copy as one of the few fiction works I plan to read again.
I've heard people say that the plot is hard to follow, or pointless, but I disagree completely. Besides, books aren't just about a chronological account of events. Books should make you feel and think and maybe even change you a bit and this one does. At least for me.
Hope this helps.
Finnegan (who is subject to strange bouts of amnesia) comes to himself on a curbside talking with Saxon X. Seaworthy, a mysterious multimillionaire, and neither of them remembers (or admits to remembering) where they met or how they came to be here. In a series of bars Finnegan agrees to be one of the crew on Seaworthy's boat as it cruises down the coast (this seems to be happening in Galveston...) and across the Atlantic. Indeed he does, though it seems that he should have been dead before getting aboard. It seems further that Seaworthy and Finnegan met while one of them was burying the body of a man he'd murdered. And that man, Papadiabolous ("Papa Devil" in Greek) is aboard...
To summarize the plot, which I have already done great violence to, would be insanity. It twists, it turns, it turns back on itself like the fabulous Ouroboros, and yet it all makes a kind of linear sense. And it goes somewhere, and when it gets there, it stops. It may be the middle book of a trilogy, but by the Devil's children, it has its own beginning and middle and even an end.
This is Lafferty at his wacky, puzzling best. There is much more going on beneath the surface of the book than on it, and I can't claim to have caught all, or even most, of it. But I caught enough to know that this is, on the one hand, a very Catholic book, and, on the other, a book about a kind of mythology based on the Neandertals or maybe other race, who came before us, were displaced by us, still exists among and within us, and wants vengeance and our destruction. The Other People have powers that we do not understand, and it's rather a mystery how we displaced them at all, but because of those powers, and the thousands upon thousands of years they've had to plot our downfall, the only hope for the human race is for some of them to betray their people for our sake.
Oh, and? Finnegan is one of them. Or partly so, of the "double blood." Go figure! He has adventures and idylls and along the way he has to make moral choices, and in the end he does, and that's the plot down to its bare bones.
It's a funny book, not laugh-out-loud funny like Terry Pratchett or Donald Westlake, but funny in the way that tickles at the back of the brain and makes you chuckle hours or days later. Yes, it's a funny book...