Published: 1971 (this edition- 2011)
IBN: 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3
‘The Exorcist’ tells the story of an angelic twelve year old girl who is slowly possessed by a powerful demon. It was a book I was reluctant to start due to its sheer infamy- even those who have never been unfortunate enough to read it can accurately account the story! I entered the book knowing much about its themes, but little about its characters. As it transpired, this was probably because the book aims to do nothing but crudely shock, which requires little in the way of characters or plot. One can tell almost from the off that the actual narration of the book is the work of an average writer, as well being as basic and predictable, and is not the reason the book is so famed.
The little character development present in the book simply sets up the opening of a cliche horror tale- the unrealistically cutesy family soon to suffer. Chris imparticular was stereotypical of the cheap thrill genre, complete with a tragic backstory featuring a dead son. Despite this, the character I hated the most was Regan herself . It was obvious from the off that such a perfect child could not remain untouched- even those who did not know much about the book before suffering through it would be able to determine this. Similarly, it was no surprise when medical professionals were not competent enough to diagnose Regan’s ailment. This predictability continued once the child was fully possessed, with the nonsense she spouted clearly being intended to do nothing but offend the religious. The second-rate ‘tortured Mother’ routine adopted by Chris in such situations soon fell flat and possessed no ability to impact the reader emotionally. As soon as a local detective began to investigate the family’s strange circumstances it was obvious he would ultimately determine their caused.
Despite the frankly laughable attempts to create realistic characters, the main downfall of ‘The Exorcist’ remains its horrendous writing style. Large words are frequently thrown in during various attempts to make the book sound intelligent. Out of all the crimes Blatty has committed against the English language my personal favourite would have to be the use of ‘the colour of sadness’. Why… Just why? The author relies on swearing regularly rather than the use of actual frightening description to shock, a technique that falls flat nowadays. The book in general has aged badly; one gets the sense Blatty did not consider that what was shocking in 1971 might not be so in the future whilst writing the novel. In this day and age the book really isn’t any more shocking than your average Stephen King beach-read, suggesting it has only lasted because of the furore it caused at publication. Whilst ‘The Exorcist’ should probably be viewed as a simple page-turner, the fact some regard the novel as a modern classic makes this difficult. It is an easy read, however this is generally because the language is so simple. One gets the sense that the book takes itself too seriously, and cannot accept that it is simply a piece of pop-culture.
As a whole, the novel is simply a perfectly average horror tale with religion inserted as a way of shocking its audience. The actual content of the book becomes both more vulgar and more predictable as the story progresses. With regards to the shock factor, the only part of the novel that particularly unnerved me was the detailed and unnecessary description of Black Mass. The more vile the description became the less the book scared me, even during the exorcism itself. The actual theme of demonic possession seems somewhat outdated and is definitely less scary in a society where less score is set by religion. I approached this book feeling apprehensive but hopeful that it would prove to be a novel that was both infamous and engaging. Sadly, this was not the case.
Rating: **.5 (2.5/5- and only because the book was a relatively easy read!)