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The Sub: A Study in Witchcraft by Thomas M.…
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The Sub: A Study in Witchcraft

by Thomas M. Disch

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Sometimes rereading a book is like reading it for the first time. I first read this when it originally came out in 1999 - the year I got married! Yay! - but I have no real memory of what happened in it. I was pretty sure there were pigs involved somewhere.

This was the last book in Disch's Supernatural Minnesota series, and it mines familiar Dischian themes of fundamentalist religion and the banality of evil. It's a masterful, assured, wonderfully written tale of ghosts and witchcraft and shamanism, all grounded in mundane and familiar human passions and foibles and failings. Disch had a keen satirist's eye, and though he saved the worst of his ire for Christian intolerance, wiccans and atheists and Indian skinwalkers prove no less evil and destructive.

Diana Turney is a substitute teacher out of work after a scandal shuts down her school. While her sister is in prison for shooting her husband, she goes to live with the husband to care for their daughter Kelly. She recovers memories of her father abusing her as a child and encounters his malevolent ghost in the smokehouse of the family home, and suddenly she has the power to turn people into animals. A large cast of characters is drawn into the web of evil she weaves with her new-found abilities, corrupting innocence and unearthing horrible secrets.

Disch carries off a complex plot full of the unexpected with ease and skill and invents a range of flawed and interesting characters depicted with unflinching accuracy. Not as dazzling and epic as The MD, perhaps, but then The MD may be one of the best books ever, but still a brilliant horror novel of rare literary merit, moral complexity and real power. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
What a dark book, almost uncomfortable to read. It’s the third of the Supernatural Minnesota series I’ve read and, by a mile, my least favorite. Or my only unfavored one, because it’s not badly written or ill thought out, although I'd say the character development on Diana was a little sketchy. It’s just…ebon. I’m very much looking forward to reading more of Disch’s work, because even when he is dark he is very very entertaining.
  SomeGuyInVirginia | Mar 6, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679442928, Hardcover)

All is not remotely well in the unusual town of Leech Lake, Minnesota. Substitute teacher Diana Turney has lost her job, and is finally beginning to recall long-lost memories of being molested by her father, Wes. To make matters worse, Wes's ghost is beginning to stir in the old smokehouse--the house that Diana has moved back into so she can take care of her sister's child, Kelly. Her sister has been shipped off to the big house to serve a year behind bars after taking a shot at her philandering husband, Carl.

Diana exacts her revenge on Carl by turning him into a pig, courtesy of some supernatural powers that she has recently inherited. But Diana's "gift" is slowly bringing her over to the dark side (and slowly turning the residents of Leech Lake into barnyard animals), with a bit of help from dear old dad out in the backyard. Luckily, there are a few good characters like Jim Cottonwood who keep things from getting totally out of hand. But Cottonwood is also in the joint, sentenced for a rape he didn't commit.

It may sound pretty confusing, but you'll find yourself thoroughly caught up in Thomas M. Disch's bizarre, satirical story of life, love, and death in the supernatural Midwest. --Craig Engler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Substitute teacher Diana Turney of Minnesota acquires powers to turn people into animals. She turns a woman into a cat and a man into a pig before her evil reign is terminated by an Indian whose powers are stronger.

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