9/4/08

The Closed Circle by Barney Parrish (1976)

HELTER SKELTER, THE SENTINEL, THE OTHER - NOTHING CAN PREPARE YOU FOR THE CLOSED CIRCLE

In sixth grade, I had a teacher who hated me because I played Dungeons and Dragons, which meant that I worshiped Satan. In seventh grade, a kid wanted to beat me up for the very same reason. In eleventh grade I got called to the office and was accused of being in a Satanic cult because somebody had drawn an anarchy sign on something I had. And in twelfth grade, people got pissed off at me because I told a pregnant girl that it was really stupid to believe that Satanists were going to kill her baby and turn it into baby-wax candles if she didn't get it immediately baptized, as her backwoods preacher had lead her to believe.

Satan has long been one of my favorite fictional characters. I'm a big fan of monsters, and Satan is like King Monster. Evil incarnate. He's not nearly as cool as Cthulhu, but he does have one thing going for him that no Lovecraft monster has: people are freaking terrified of him. In real life. Not only are they afraid of the Devil himself, they're afraid of his followers that supposedly walk among us, secretly performing rituals, casting spells, sacrificing things, and rolling special evil dice that have 20 sides. Like the cults that worship Cthulhu, though, these cults just don't exist. There aren't any secret groups dedicated to worshipping Satan, meeting in basements lit with black candles, drinking blood, and killing things. Nobody who believes in the Christian Devil wants anything to do with him. Real "Satanists" aren't scary at all, and they usually stop calling themselves that around the same time they stop shopping at Hot Topic.

The fear of Satan and his followers has lead to their inclusion in countless books, stories, and movies. Sometimes the stories are great, like The Exorcist, but sometimes they're not so great, like The Closed Circle. The book was published by Playboy Press, which lead me to believe that it was either erotica or good literature, which is what they're known for, but it turned out to be surprisingly low grade. I'm glad I only paid 30 cents for it.

The Closed Circle is a Satanic cult that consists of a bunch of rich people. They're like a reverse Charles Manson cult, in which rich celebrities kill poor runaways instead of the other way around. They even mention Manson in one of their rituals. The group is able to remain a secret until a woman begins to have visions of them. She also gets really horny, which is why she is committed to a mental hospital. The doctors are just like the doctors in real life, except that they immediately start seriously considering whether something paranormal is happening. Fortunately, they get a faith healer to help her. A real faith healer.

As an avid reader of speculative fiction, I'm used to suspending disbelief. Really, if I can accept the Satan stuff and the psychic stuff in this book, I should be able to accept the rest. After all, the book doesn't take place in the real world, it takes place in the magical world of The Closed Circle. That might be the problem, though. For a story like this to be effective, it should take place in a world as close to ours as possible, but as the unrealistic elements pile up the story moves further and further away from the real world. By the end of the book, The Closed Circle is no longer scary, they're just another set of characters in a phony world.

Despite its flaws, The Closed Circle is not boring. There's plenty of action, and it's well paced. It doesn't really work as a horror story, but it's alright for a supernatural suspense story. It probably would have worked better in a different format, like a cartoon or comic book. Overall, it's really not a terrible book, it's just not good.

Buy this book.

1 comment:

wolfkahn said...

Very cool blog! I love the theme (I rarely buy less than 5-10 used books, mostly SF/fantasy a week).