Dimiter by William Peter Blatty

Dimiter

by William Peter Blatty

Published by Tor/Forge, 2010

Its forty years since William Peter Blatty turned the horror world upside down with his remarkable book The Exorcist and its 27 years since the sequel Legion, his last full length novel. With that in mind the publication of a new novel is therefore something of an event, especially when this is the novel the author describes as the “most personally important” of his career.

First things first, Dimiter is not a horror novel, yes it’s horrific in parts but the atrocities are all man made. Instead, this is described as a theological thriller, a complex thought provoking book that has evolved over a thirty year period.

This is also the most difficult review I have ever had to do. The book is almost impossible to describe without spoiling the plot. In essence the story is one long exposition with numerous plot twists and turns that carry on turning until the very last page. In simplest terms it’s the story of a disparate group of characters and their interactions with Paul Dimiter. Dimiter is a remarkable character who develops throughout the book into a complex messianic figure, the other characters are all somehow touched and changed by his presence.

That’s about all I can say without giving anything away. In short it’s an old fashioned espionage story (think John LeCarre) but with a complex theological standpoint. In parts, beautifully written, with the first section a breathtaking sequence of extreme torture and moral questioning that will leave you shaking. Unfortunately the rest of the book doesn’t quite match the majesty of that first section. In fact, the protracted writing period (over thirty years) has left us with a somewhat disjointed book. There are huge stylistic variations in certain areas of the book that make for a strange and often difficult reading experience.

At times the prose is powerful and emotional but at others it gives way to an clunky, unengaging, Q&A interview format that throws the reader back into reality. I think it would benefit from repeated readings. There is so much left unclear until the very end that it can leave the reader confused, even after the revelations are made it is still  difficult for the reader to make the connections, particularly as information is only drip fed throughout.

So all in all a good book if not a great one. It is certainly a book which raises some interesting theological points and does it by way of deeply spiritual metaphors, a parable which will haunt the reader for some time but overall it falls short. After the first seventy pages I thought it may be one of the best books I had read in many years after the next seventy I was scratching my head in confusion and so it went on. Powerful, important and different, yes but ultimately Dimiter is flawed.

Rating 3.5 out of 5


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