5 Stars Out Of 5
Multi-Layered Deceit and Self-Deception
May 22, 2013
I recently received an interesting book from Kregel Publications for review, as part of their "Blog Tour" program. This book is titled Magnificent Malevolence, and is written in the tradition of the famous Screwtape Letters, which was published in the midst of the Second World War. I was provided a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Magnificent Malevolence is the entertaining and thought-provoking story of the demon Crumblewit S.O.D. (Order of the Sons of Darkness, 1st Class), as he ascends to a position of power and influence in the forces of darkness in the wake of WW2, progressing on through to modern times. It serves, as the introduction says, as a sort of "Hell's update." How fortunate, then, says the introduction, that this account, rescued from the "Low Command's Ministry of Disinformation," has fallen into our hands.
I read this book through more than once, as it is not as straight-forward as one would expect. It is, after all, an account that is "distorted by Crumblewit's truly diabolical conceit and also his ability for self-delusion." Keeping this distortion in mind led me to think some issues through more thoroughly than I might have had I not kept this in mind. The truth of a given situation in Crumblewit's account was not always apparent immediately, given that he is not exactly an honest demon (imagine that!), and he seems to be at odds with those on his own side more often than not. One is left wondering if he is truly a demonic "visionary," a contrarian, or perhaps simply self-deluded. Perhaps he is all three. This leads the reader into some much-appreciated (by me) contemplation, as the layers of deceit and self-deception contained in this story are peeled back one by one.
Also interesting to me were Crumblewit's ideas and thoughts on the Lord God Almighty, the "unmentionable one," as he puts it more than once. Crumblewit saw himself as having the ability to use sneaky tactics and surprise against his adversary, though other demons he encountered were more realistic in their appraisal of God's omnipotence and power. God is utterly sovereign, and he causes all things to work according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Even those actions meant for evil are used by Him for good (Genesis 50:20).
Many times in his account, Crumblewit was very proud of the way he handled given situations, but was quick to disassociate himself from any disastrous (from the demonic perspective) future consequences of his actions. Crumblewit's ability for self-delusion led him not only to think that he could actually sneak something past the omnipotent God without notice, but to also refuse to acknowledge any unanticipated or negative consequences of his actions. This thought leads me into self-reflection on my own tendency towards self-justification...
In this book, many topics were discussed from the demonic point of view. The post-WW2 establishment of Israel is discussed, and makes for some interesting thinking. Crumblewit presents this as a great achievement, but one is left to wonder if his "achievement" is only one in a superficial sense. Crumblewit also discusses the destructive shifting of focus by ministers from God and their flocks to their "ministries," liberal Christianity, the Charismatic movement, the ecumenical movement, fundamentalism, the process of rendering congregations fruitless, and different political/economic systems such as Marxism and democracy. There are some interesting observations made in the discussion of political systems that bear some thought, even if the reader is inclined to disagree to some extent.
In order to bring the story and the struggle into modern times, the book also looked at the use of the internet for both good and evil. I think that this section was valuable, in that it dealt with the realities of the internet both as a help and a potential hindrance to the Church. The internet is here to stay, and I think that we (as the human race in general and the Church in particular) have more than a little adapting to do. I appreciated that Mr. Wilson dealt with this subject in the book through Crumblewit's point of view.
I find that Magnificent Malevolence is a work of fiction that has deeper implications, and deals with history, theology, the actions that theology drives, and the implications and consequences of seemingly unrelated events. It is entertaining, and as thought-provoking as the reader wants it to be. How many layers of the metaphorical "onion" of deception contained in this book to peel back is entirely up to the reader, but I found it a satisfying experience.
This book also encouraged me to look long and hard about self-deception and conceit, as these two traits defined Crumblewit, and were all but dripping from every statement he made. As I said earlier, one is never quite sure where Crumblewit really stands in the eyes of his demonic superiors, and the latter parts of the book definitely reinforce this uncertainty as Crumblewit grows in power and influence, and tension builds within the forces of darkness.
I enjoyed this book because it was an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. I read it twice: the first time solely for entertainment value. Once I realized the possibilities this book contained, I read it again more slowly, reflecting on the twists and turns of the events and issues it discussed, and the deceit that twisted everything.
I recommend this book for anyone looking for a good read in the spirit of The Screwtape Letters, and I encourage you to think hard on the distortions and deceit contained in it. Crumblewit was a master of deception- deceiving others and himself with equal skill. Magnificent Malevolence is one of those books that I see myself re-reading every once in a while, simply for entertainment and for the thought it provokes.
Thanks for reading!