The Devil’s Labyrinth by John Saul

The only thing that comes to mind as one wades through this offering from  “the master of macabre” is “Jeez, what was he thinking?!!”

It starts ordinarily enough, with a recently orphaned 15 year old Ryan MacIntyre being sent off to the sinister St Isaac’s Preparatory Academy.  In the labyrinthine catacombs of the church school, a dynamic staff member is having some success performing exorcisms on students.

Everybody loves a good exorcism, but then Father Sebastian Sloane has unearthed an arcane scroll that actually causes demons to possess the victims, and apparently, control them. He and his brother, actually devout Muslims have infiltrated the Catholic clergy, and are on a lone path of rampage to kill the present-day Pope to avenge wrongs committed by the Church on Jewish and Muslim families during the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the 1300s. This involves not only  causing demonic possession of unsuspecting students, but also a mundane suicide bombing to be perpetrated by the zombies during the Pope’s mass. There’s also a mysterious crucifix for moral support, and some requisite maggot consumption.

The most appalling thing about the book  is that it is simultaneously insulting to both Catholics and Muslims.  Arabic words and Islamic prayers are used throughout by the priest who is basically engaged in devil-raising. Arabic  is used by the brainwashed children,  the pious Muslim is unbelievably nursing a grudge that’s 6 centuries old. The most offensive thing here is that the Muslim is engaged in enlisting the aid of hell, and that by connotation, Allah is the devil.  Fatwa, anyone?  To add insult to injury, John Saul preys on the worst stereotype of the terrorist by having the Muslim brothers sew bombs into the surplices of the altar boys to blow up the Pope.  The Christ in the secret chapel is a leering, tortured being. The Church is unable to afford any  peace or consolation to the evil inside its very walls, and the benign old priests who run the place are weak, powerless and effete.

In all, John Saul has laid a dud – a revolting, offensive dud, an insensitive dud, and [the greater crime] a literary dud.

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6 Responses to “The Devil’s Labyrinth by John Saul”

  1. Niranjan Says:

    “Everybody loves a good exorcism” – yes, indeed :). Good review! And great to have you back!

    • Don’t you believe i’m back – maybe it’s just sort of dying with whimper. 🙂 Thank you for keeping me on your list though.

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    Ok, I have a question concerning this book that I can’t seem for which to find an answer–Who was the soldier that died in Kuwait in 1991 and handed over the crucifix? At first I thought it was Ryan’s father, but then it was said that his father died two years prior to whatever year it was the remainder of the book took place and was killed in Afghanistan (if I remember correctly). Perhaps I missed something?

    • no, as far as i recall, the soldier WAS Ryan’s father, and I think Saul was referring to the events around Desert Storm, and within that time frame. the crucifix came with his father’s effects in the trunk, no? presumably, they have been sitting in the trunk and waiting for Ryan to grow up.

      what i was wondering was what connection did the crucifix have with the Spanish guys, and how it ended up in Kuwait, and why were they trying so hard to get it back anyway?

      and finally, do you really care? i mean, the entire thing is so riddled with holes, my brain leaked through the cracks.

      • Elizabeth Says:

        From what I gathered, they perceived the crucifix as a threat, and it had originally belonged to the empty slot on the box they found containing the scroll? But why it belonged there or why they thought it a threat I haven’t the slightest…

        And apparently I cared enough to ask.. it had certainly been bugging me, and in fact still does–I understand that the events occurred during Desert Storm, but that does not explain why the soldier at the beginning died in 1991 in Kuwait and Ryan’s father was said to have died only two years prior and in Afghanistan (or Iraq, I can’t recall at the moment which it was)

        It just seems big enough of a hole that SOMEONE should have caught it before the book was published..don’t they pay people to find things like that? (i.e. EDITORS??)

  3. @ Elizabeth: lol, who knows?
    when it’s someone as huge as Saul, maybe they just pass it through with nary a look. his earlier works were brilliant and i remember being freaked out of a good year’s growth.

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