Running With the Demon is an urban fantasy or dark fantasy novel by Terry Brooks. It also represents an example of the start of a series for him as it would go on to be the first in the short Word and the Void series.
The book starts featuring a post-apocalyptic scene that feels like it could come straight out of a Stephen King or Richard Matheson work before slipping into the realization that this is a kind of dream sequence. This has a good effect on the reader allowing the tension to be amped up from the beginning while the supernatural occurrences particularly the darker ones take their time to build up.
The two primary leads are John Ross, a former literary scholar who has found himself and viewed as a knight of the word, a position that puts him in the situation of protecting certain aspects of reality from the vision he has seen. He is depicted as tired and a man who was not aware of the dark and strange world he would find himself in, but well resigned to the task. The other lead is Nest Freemark, whose name alone is giving more than a little attention and who knows from the beginning of the story she has supernatural abilities. She leave this with her grandparents and never knew her mother, and knows even less of her father. She can see the supernatural in a way most can’t, with her grandmother being an obvious exception. She has friends and allies of course, however seems keenly aware that no one is quite like her and can’t quite come to grips with this.
Other characters include old Bob, Nest’s grandfather, and her grandmother Evelyn who knows a thing or two about magic. Race and pick represent two of her Supernatural friends, and she has an assortment of friends in the more human society as well, albeit finding herself at that awkward age where she isn’t comfortable around them in so many ways.
When it comes to potentially offensive or upsetting material right off the bat Running with the demon does include Two Bears, a Native American character of complicated veracity who seems a little like a stereotypical mystical type at times and yet isn’t quite stereotypical enough I find myself reducing him to a racial caricature. We use of him as a member of a tribe not remembered in the real world prevents me from focusing too much on stereotypical elements like the peace pipe due to the fact that they could be anything from not entirely serious comments by the man to actually using these things narratively.
There is reference frequently to the town status as a union town involving a number of metal shops and overall the result is an additional feeling of tension between the faults in the people of the town on edge because of their increasing economic concerns which is pushed forward by the titular creature.
This volume is available in paperback ebook and hardcover copies.
Overall Terry Brooks’ Running With the Demon is a very good piece of dark fantasy, which leaves two obvious openings for continued stories. There is some slightly questionable use of Native American characters, although even so the character is depicted as sympathetic and with a detailed cultural backstory.
(Del Rey, 2007)