Folio Society editions of books give us a lovely excuse to take a look at popular books with fresh eyes. STARBURST is well established, but the novel of The Exorcist came out in 1971, so a review of William Peter Blatty’s horror classic is well overdue.
In case, somehow, you’re not familiar with the story; The Exorcist is the story of a young girl thought to be demonically possessed, and the small group of determined individuals who, with assumed to be on their God on the side, race against time to save her. The novel and the subsequent movie adaptation spawned a legion of imitators.
The book was a hit when it came out back then, but its longevity is easily owed to the movie, which is regarded as a classic in its own right. Both generated much hysteria when they came out at the time, but reading the book today will not shed much light as to why this work caused such a moral panic. It’s apparent that Blatty’s thoughtful and disturbing meditation on the nature of faith was overtaken by its more fantastic elements. All of that was overtaken by those looking to profit from the controversy caused by the release of the movie. As such, the novel has swamped by the impact of its adaptation.
Broadly, the novel achieves the same goal as the film. It’s a haunting story that stays with you for a long time, the sort of tale that inspires chills and deep thought, and certainly one that many will rewrite. There are those who will tell you the movie is better than the book. They’re wrong. Blatty’s voice is smooth, seductive and quick throughout. This is an accessible read, though not an easy one. The doubts of the central characters are much more detailed and the stakes feel much higher. It’s a thriller and a page-turner, and if you haven’t seen the movie, read the book first; you’ll get much more out of both.
Of course, this is the Folio Society version. It’s appropriately pretty and because this is The Exorcist, just creepy enough to be exciting, but not so creepy that you wouldn’t want it in the house. There are 13 illustrations in total, each one a gorgeous piece of art that drips fear and terror right off the page (the art is by Jeremy Caniglia, whose work and style is instantly recognisable to horror fans). From the binding to the font to the feel of the paper itself, this edition is a lovely expression of an iconic and spooky story.
THE EXORCIST / AUTHOR: WILLIAM PETER BLATTY / ILLUSTRATOR: JEREMY CANIGLIA / PUBLISHER: THE FOLIO SOCIETY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW