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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Black Easter

Copyright 1968 by James Blish

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Very good (4/5)

I first read this in 1981 and most recently on the 1st December 2006

Mr Baines is the boss of Consolidated Warfare Services. Business has been brisk but uninspiring in recent years. The risk of nuclear warfare and its threat of Mutually Assured Destruction deters the large scale conflicts. Barnes is looking for something rather radically destructive, partly for the benefit of Consolidated Warfare Services but mostly just because he wants to.

Dr Theron Ware is the most powerful black magician in the world. His speciality is murder, any sort of murder. He's got time on his hands and he may be interested in a something a little more stimulating.

Baines has a commission for Dr Ware. Ware may find Baines' commission too exciting to resist but far too much to handle. The commission is for one night only, to release all the demons of hell.

Dr Ware accepts the commission and Doomsday is now imminent.

The infernal agreement and subsequent conjurations will also involve and embroil Jack Ginsberg and Father Dominenco.

Jack Ginsberg is Baines' assistant. He doesn't much care about war and arms deals. It is a lust for women that drives him. And boy, has Dr Ware provided him with a woman. Well, not a woman exactly. She's a succubus, but either way he is finding it extremely, increasingly enervating.

Father F. X. Dominenco Bruno Garelli is a white magician working for the Church. Now he has been charged to be an observer to Dr Ware's conjuring. Under the covenant between the white and black magicians, he may not hinder or halt Ware's insane plans and must simply, horrified and repelled, observe the proceedings.

So the good Father Dominenco watches as the gates of hell are opened, and demon after fearful demon emerges into the world, to commit mayhem and slaughter upon our unprotected populations,

And where is God amongst this mayhem? Is he, as the incarnated demons announce, already dead?

A magnificent achievement! Of course this is one of James Blish's best books and certainly one of the most memorable books ever. It's a wonderful, outlandish, esoteric thriller. It's written with clarity and precision, a perfect foil to its supernatural subject matter.

In his Author's Note, Blish spells out that this novel is not romantic or playful. Rather it deals with real sorcery as it would have to be, were it real. As an aside, when you consider that it contains pretty explicit instructions for releasing God know how many demons from the depths of hell, it's a pretty slim volume. Exactly what you need when you carry the paperback round just in case you might one day need one or two of the infernal demons to help you out of a sticky situation.

Fab stuff indeed, and followed by the very satisfying sequel "The Day After Judgement". In fact these two novels along with "A Case Of Conscience" and "Doctor Mirabilis" form Blish's After Such Knowledge set.

Loaded on the 28th February 2007.
Cover of Black Easter