A review of Marie Jakober’s The Demon Left Behind (Edge, 2011)
By Derek Newman-Stille
The world is full of invisible entities, entities affected by us and by the chaos of our world – demons. They aren’t evil, but rather morally grey, like us, varying in their outlook on the world. But because of the link between the visible and invisible worlds, they feel the need to study us, watch and observe us and ensure that no human (visie) action will affect them or their lives. Demons have become silent observers in Marie Jakober’s The Demon Left Behind, bound by a supernatural prime directive not to interfere with our world, but to observe it in case action needs to occur – particularly since human inventions like nuclear bombs could demolish demon life as well as human life.
When the young demon Wye Wye disappears, Melusine and her team are tasked to find him and bring him home. They discover that in his quest to discover threats to the world, he has become insatiably curious about militia groups who believe that the End of Times is upon them and believe that they have a role in protecting the world from things that they see as threats to Christian hegemonic control. Melusine and her group have to employ the work of a human informant and begin to re-trace Wye Wye’s steps as well as his research in order to find out what happened to him and how he became lost in his search to understand.
Jakober’s The Demon Left Behind plays with the image of ethnography, studying humanity from the perspective of an ‘Other’ that is so different from human experience that it does not have a bodily existence apart from the time the demons spend emulating humans in order to study us. Like in many early ethnographic texts, Melusine experiences the allure of the ‘Other’, feeling a desire to become more like the human beings she is observing. She feels a pull toward bodily existence, the desire to experience human sexuality, human desire, human food, and the complexities of bodily existence. Others in her group experience disgust at the idea of bodily existence, but as Melusine becomes closer to her human informant, Paige, she begins to better understand his experience and sees value in corporeality even though it would mean the loss of her immortality if she were to take human bodily form for too long.
The Demon Left Behind evokes in readers a sense of estrangement from the human experience, an othering of our own lives so that we can look at ourselves from an outside perspective and wonder at the strange things that occur in our world that we don’t question – that we normalise.
To explore this and other Edge books, visit their website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/ .