I read this book quite a while ago but it left a strong mark on my innocent mind; so strong indeed that I remember passages of the stories within this book almost literally, as if I'd read them yesterday. And they are just as powerful today, though my mind is slightly less innocent.
Let me start by saying that this is not light reading. Malachi Martin was an Irish Catholic Priest, studious of Theology, and professor at the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Institute, among many other things. He received two Guggenheim fellowships and was highly critical of the Church throughout his life, which made him a controversial figure supported by its most orthodox factions, and regarded with disdain by those in favor of a laxer Church.
If you want a clearer picture of just how high up the ladder he was, it is alleged that he was outside the door of the papal living quarters while Pope John XXIII opened the Third Secret of Fatima. Now, weather you are with him or you think he was nuts, I wouldn't just take lightly what such an informed men had to say about what happened during real exorcisms. And that in itself is scarier than any movie shown in theaters this Halloween.
Hostage of the Devil is a far cry from those stories we've grown so used to these days. There is little said about speaking in tongues, arching backs, cold rooms, or any special effects Hollywood has fed us up. He relates five cases of possession dating from the modern era in which he aided, but wasn't the priest in charge.
There is a lot of philosophy in this book regarding the question of what opens a soul to become possessed, but it is never preachy or difficult to read--remember, I was a teenager at the peak of my religious rebellion when I read it for the first time, and I wasn't bored or annoyed at all.--Martin then, proceeds to relate how the ordeal began for each of the five subjects, how it grew from a thought, to seeing things, to the actual feeling of someone else in your body. And, of course, how it got resolved, how long it took, and what was the price for everyone involved.
Martin makes it a point to show that an exorcism is a war fought in the minds and hearts of those involved, that there are no objects moving by themselves or bleeding walls, and just how high the stakes can be for the participants. A riveting book which intention is to inform rather than to scare, but that scares just the same because of its realism. I could see myself in each of the stories because the characters depicted are regular Joe's, and it left me wondering if I could be next.
This is a book for those interested in knowing what really happens behind closed doors; for those who wonder if the darkness outside their window can creep in; for those who want serious talk about serious evil without any props. If you think you can take it, what better time to do it than during Samhain, then.