Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: "The Devil in Silver" by Victor LaValle

The Devil in Silver review
Author: Victor LaValle
5 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Literary Fiction (per publisher); Dark Fiction (per me)
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Anyone who likes a great story

Disclosure: I received a paperback ARC of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: New Hyde Hospital’s psychiatric ward has a new resident. It also has a very, very old one.

Pepper is a rambunctious big man, minor-league troublemaker, working-class hero (in his own mind), and, suddenly, the surprised inmate of a budget-strapped mental institution in Queens, New York. He’s not mentally ill, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He is accused of a crime he can’t quite square with his memory. In the darkness of his room on his first night, he’s visited by a terrifying creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison who nearly kills him before being hustled away by the hospital staff. It’s no delusion: The other patients confirm that a hungry devil roams the hallways when the sun goes down. Pepper rallies three other inmates in a plot to fight back: Dorry, an octogenarian schizophrenic who’s been on the ward for decades and knows all its secrets; Coffee, an African immigrant with severe OCD, who tries desperately to send alarms to the outside world; and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl who acts as the group’s enforcer. Battling the pill-pushing staff, one another, and their own minds, they try to kill the monster that’s stalking them. But can the Devil die?

My Thoughts: This was one of those books I picked up because there wasn’t anything else that really appealed to me, and it just looked strange enough that I would enjoy it. Pepper seems like the kind of character I would enjoy, and I also tend to like stories sent in mental institutions. But imagine my delight when I found descriptions like this one:
...Queens, New York. The most ethnically diverse region not just in the United States, but on the entire planet; a distinction it’s held for more than four decades. In Queens, you will find Korean kids who sound like black kids. Italians who sound like Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans who sound like Italians. Third-generation Irish who sound like old Jews. That’s Queens. Not a melting pot, not even a tossed salad, but an all you-can-eat, mix-and-match buffet.

This is the sort of book that will give people with a phobia of madness or being committed nightmares. This is a paranoiac’s vision of a mental institution, a place designed and developed for the sole purpose of disappearing those who are so far beneath society’s notice that no one will even care when they vanish. Designed and developed to house a monster. But who will believe mental patients when they claim a beast is killing them?

I was put in on a 72-hour hold once – thankfully I was released on-time – and there do tend to be a lot of amusing incidents on a psych ward. For instance, the problems with the television lounge and the person in control of the remote can cause amusing incidents like this one: was a ‘news program.’ Cue the exodus! Two-thirds of the patients scrambled. The Air Force’s finest fighter squadrons don’t move as fast.
These sorts of humorous interludes are very necessary, as this is a really freaky book.

However, this author is really amazing. His style is such that is draws you in and holds you. Take this example, talking about a man who ends up being scapegoated for events that take place late in the book. “Only a day after he’d left New Hyde, no one at the hospital could remember the dude’s name. (His name was Robert Paulson. His name was Robert Paulson.)” You see what I mean? That reptition – pure genius. So, I can heartily recommend this book to folks that won’t get freaked out by the content, or those who aren’t triggered by the concept of an asylum. Great stuff!


  1. Oh wow, what an interesting review! I've heard of this title but had no idea what it was about - now I know I need to read it! Thanks for sharing :)


    1. Thanks - yeah, it was an interesting book. As I said, I was initially interested because I have this thing about reading about mental institutions since I was in junior high and was intrigued - I didn't expect it to blow me away the way it did. Victor LaValle is bloody brilliant, he is...


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