I am chagrinned to admit I have never read nor seen THE EXORCIST, which is the title most people know William Peter Blatty for. I consistently see it at the top of Best Horror lists, for both book and movie form, therefore I consider that reason enough to dub the man a horror icon. As such, when the fine folks at Tor reached out to see if I was interested in reviewing another of his books, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, I jumped at the chance. After all, what horror fan wouldn’t? I’m so glad I did; this is an excellent read, and it is one you don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy.
If you are not familiar with THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Tor Books:
Hidden away in a brooding Gothic manor in the deep woods is Center Eighteen, a secret military “rest camp” currently housing twenty-seven inmates, all officers who have succumbed to a sudden outbreak of mental illness. Have the men truly lost their minds, are they only pretending to be insane to avoid combat, or is some more sinister conspiracy at work?
Desperate for answers, the Pentagon has placed a brilliant Marine psychiatrist in charge of the base and its deranged occupants. A man of deep faith and compassion, Colonel Kane hopes to uncover the root of the men’s bizarre obsessions. But as Center Eighteen descends into chaos, Kane finds the greatest challenge may be his own buried demons…
A stunning meditation on God’s existence that was the basis of an acclaimed Golden Globe award-winning 1980 film (also known as Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane), William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration is a thought-provoking, blackly comic journey into the heart of madness–and the outer limits of belief.
I was spellbound by this book from the onset. The way Peter Blatty writes is a bit different from traditional authors, but it drew me in and captivated me through the whole book. And while the story might sound dated (the book is almost 40 years old), its concepts stand the test of time.
THE NINTH CONFIGURATION is written very well, with a flow and rhythm that grants full immersion into the story. I am surprised at how much depth is injected into the story, given the fact that it is only 170 pages in length. This is a true testament to the talents of the author.
The characters are vibrant and, in some cases, larger than life, thanks to the mental illness that plagues them. Peter Blatty gives each a distinct voice that carries through the story. The reader likes them for who they used to be, but also enjoys them for who (and what) they are now. As such, this gives readers a reason to be invested in the plot.
I particularly enjoyed the twist that occurs towards the end. I won’t give anything away, but I will confess I certainly did not see it coming. And while the ending is a bit open-ended, there are many different conclusions that could be drawn from it. This is one of those books that prompts discussion for many years after it is read.
THE NINTH CONFIGURATION is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for something different. You don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy this one, so make a note to give it a look. The book is available now in a variety of formats.