Why I read it: Read an obit of the author a couple of weeks ago, and it made me regret not having read anything by him when he was alive. Then, when I was at the library a couple of weeks ago to see if anything I'd requested had come in, I perused the shelves so as not to leave empty-handed, and this was a name I remembered (and in fact the first book in what appeared to be a series that I had written down on my "list").
What I liked: I haven't read much horror, except for the occasional Stephen King that I picked up at relatives' houses when I was trapped there, and the like. So I don't even know if this is typical of the genre, or even really falls within the genre. It seemed to me like a well-done deal-with-the-devil tale. It had engaging characters, a believable location, etc. I got the feeling from the obit that Disch was a "somebody" in science fiction circles. I liked that part of the story took place in the past, and then moved into the future for the last 150 pages or so. Except it wasn't the future anymore, as the book was published in 1990, and the last section took place in 1999, so... What one of my coworkers said I think Robert J. Sawyer said about Science Fiction -- there's no point, since 2001 is past, and none of the stuff that happened in the Arthur C. Clarke book has come true.
I really liked the deal-with-the-devil that's not a devil, it's Santa, or Mercury. It seemed like a nice twist to me, but maybe if I'd read, like, any horror, it would seem old hat.
Oh, I also liked the shout-outs to Canada, especially the one on p. 29, all about how much Ned's father Lance hated Canada, but he was sort of stuck there. I think all people who live here feel that way some of the time. It's part of the Canadian way.
What I hated: There was an annoying lack of page numbers on chapter title pages, and on the left face. Also, once it moved into the "future" I had a harder time identifying with the characters, mostly because a huge amount of time had passed, maybe. Also, I didn't particularly like the medical explanation for William and Judge at the end, and the explanation of the plague that had been unleashed didn't completely work for me.
What I can steal: Certainly it opens up a different genre for me. I think I'll pick up the other books in the series (I saw "The Priest" beside this one when I took it out, and I think all three are at the closest library, which I never go to because its hours are so unrealistic).
I would not recommend this book to ardent religious people. Devout Catholics who read it would only be angered.