Monday, April 4, 2011

Everything Has Its Cost

Following a thought I first mentioned when we studied Nova, I want to discuss more of the principle behind "everything has its cost". This idea factors prominently in Dale Peck's Body Surfing as both the Mogran (used here alternatively with "demons") and their human hosts come to grips with their alternatively mutualistic and parasitic relationship. Like Prince Red in Nova, Mogran seem to metaphorically pay well after their own actions while like Lorq von Ray, the humans must cope with their decisions immediately after their execution.

King Solomon and an aide (left) with the Demons he bound to his service

The most obvious issue of "cost" for the Mogran is summarized by their role in "creating" the Hunters. As described by Ileana:

"The taint of the Mogran is something all of us wish we could wipe away. But it doesn't go away. The best we can do is take what they have done to us and use it against them[...] You have skin like armor. Beneath that skin lie other augmentations. Learn to harness them, and you will have your revenge." (Peck 231-232).

Ironically then, should a Mogran physically improve a host and fail to "clean up" after themselves (as usually happens due to the frenzy driving the jump), they leave this human with what amount to superpowers and thus the necessary tools to slay their possessor and other demons. As is the case with Leo, his "joyride" and manipulation of Ileana convolutedly leads (yet leads nonetheless) to his own demise from the combined efforts of the huntress and her pupil(s) (Q and Jasper/Michaela). As Leo comments to himself: more of his hosts have been recruited for the Legion's hunters/huntresses than any other Mogran, a testament which underscores of how both a demon's actions and attitudes eventually returned to haunt him. With no Mogran left (by the end of the book) except for himself, Jasper, and the Alpha Wave, Leo's hubris has led to demonkind paying the price in (metaphorical) blood. Furthermore, Leo fails in his quest to gain a companion in Jasper by foolishly leaving memories behind in Larry Bishop (later possessed by Jasper) because of his rush to "capture" Michaela. The memories unfortunately revealed to Jasper the truth behind the "accident" in the Porsche and the manipulation of Q.

From a human perspective, cost also appears mainly as an emotional issue rather than the life-or-death one for the Mogran. Though most of the horrible crimes (rape, theft, vehicular homicide, murder) committed in the novel are tied to possession and the whimsy of the demons, the poor souls possessed at the time have to comprehend and cope with their actions. Ileana is haunted by the 46 men she killed during her Leo-encouraged rampage while Q is forced to similarly cope with the loss of his girlfriend, the near-death of Michaela, and the "death" of his best friend at his hand (literally if not purposefully). More obscurely, the Serbian soldiers who raped Ileana paid immediately as she mercilessly killed each one of them. Building on this thread, Leo, the demon who perpetrated the rape, did not pay with his life until over a decade later.

Loss is a fundamental part of our human existence but then again, so is happiness and achievement. Despite the usually inherent positivity of the latter two principles, there is still always a price incurred. As claimed by the book, Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll, and JM Barrie all had illustrious writing careers. However, these careers only came after possession left them emotionally and mentally scarred and thus had the material they needed to craft their literary classics (184). Leonardo da Vinci was also mentioned as the potential victim of a Mogran who turned his acquired knowledge to become the Renaissance Man we know today (187).

In summary then, everyone (be they human or Mogran) eventually paid a price for their actions. Furthermore, Peck incorporates some elements from the trope of the "Deal with the Devil" yet shifts them to better reflect the capabilities of the possessing demons. Q, Ileana, Michaela, Alec, the aforementioned authors, and (potentially) Leonardo da Vinci all acquired new skills and abilities but only after being forced to commit acts of violence toward the body or soul (murder or rape). Despite the supernatural aura of Peck's work, these fundamentals of human existence remain and I applaud him addressing our broader imperfection and the idea behind "everything has a price."


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