Read The Divinity Student by Michael Cisco Harry O. Morris Online


Short but powerful, this neo-gothic novel, which is illustrated by Harry O. Morris, uses the crisp immediacy of the present tense to lead the reader on a hallucinatory journey from humanity to inhuman transcendence. After a miraculous recovery from near death, a young man known only as the Divinity Student is beset by strange dreams whose lingering effects further alienateShort but powerful, this neo-gothic novel, which is illustrated by Harry O. Morris, uses the crisp immediacy of the present tense to lead the reader on a hallucinatory journey from humanity to inhuman transcendence. After a miraculous recovery from near death, a young man known only as the Divinity Student is beset by strange dreams whose lingering effects further alienate him from his fellows....

Title : The Divinity Student
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780965220019
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Divinity Student Reviews

  • Randolph Carter
    2019-03-21 08:51

    For those of you that feel a need to put this in a slot, let us call this Gothic horror surrealism. Like all good surrealism the reader is going to want to assign meaning and connection to things that are meant to be meaningless and unconnected. On the other hand there is definitely somewhat of a linear plot here. In some places it is downright funny. The body snatching scenes are derivative of the usual cliches.What else can you say about a book where the Divinity Student is eviserated and stuffed full of paper in the first few pages? Our fearless protagonist, a word-finder by trade, has to distill the essence of twelve dead word finders to finish the catalog of lost words. He will scamper through a surrealist background while he tries to finish his mission. This is the only book I have read that has a large dose of surrealism and actually became a page turner for me. The Centipede Press hardcover is also beautiful and the illustrations are marvelous. I have not read anything except a few short stories by Cisco but I will definitely be dipping into this the rest of this box set from time to time.

  • Simon
    2019-03-21 10:51

    Acting on recommendations to read this book (from various people who's opinions I respect) I tracked down this book that, so far as I am aware, have never been published in the UK. I think it was worth it.Inside the cover there is a quotation from the author which says "I've always wanted to write something that would affect my readers like a spell, or a poison, or a drug, or hypnosis." That describes pretty well what the author was attempting to do with this book and I think he was broadly sucessful. As such I feel the reader needs to read this in as few sittings as possible, away from all distractions to alllow oneself to slip into the mode or "hypnotic" state from which this book can be best enjoyed. Unfortunately, that's not usually the way I get to read. I grab small snatches here and there, little and often, usually surrounded by distractions (like on a train or with children shouting in the background) but those times I managed it, my enjoyment increased and my appreciation of what the author was trying to do deepened.If I had to classify this, I would describe it as surrealist fantasy horror. Many things about this book are unusual. The protagonist for a start. What exactly is a divinity student? And how much of his strange abilities did he aquire from his strange death and resurrection described in the opening chapter or merely from his time at the seminary? Very little about his curious antagonists, hiding behind the tinted windows of cars, is ever explained, nor why they are trying to stand the way of his quest to find out the secret words that, when grasped, will allow him to understand the meaning of the universe.It's definitely one of those books that will benefit from a re-read or two in order that it's more finer subtleties might be appreciated. And I am also left with a desire to read something else by this author. Recomendations will be welcome.

  • Chris
    2019-03-20 05:50

    This is the most hallucinogenic novel I've read in a long time, perhaps ever, putting a strong emphasis on "weird" in "weird-fiction." If you can handle the lack of logic and linear plot, the language and imagery is fantastic, creating not just a brilliant atmosphere but an actual narrative.You know those nights that you have lengthy, complicated and disturbing dreams, and you woke up know that you've spent the last 6 hours inside a complex and involved story, but the second you try to tell someone about it you realize you can't remember a single detail; then, for the rest of the day, you have that nagging feeling that you are forgetting something, or that there was something terrible important you were supposed to remember, then you realize its just the residue of the dream drifting around in the back of your mind? That is what every page of this book feels like. All the review which say this book sacrificed character and plot for atmosphere are partially right -- the tone and feel of the book is much more important than strict characterization and story-telling, but that's a matter of taste. However, I think those reviews do Cisco a disservice, because there is a plot; it might be hallucinogenic and nightmarish, but one central character travels to a physical location and then pursues one consistent goal. This is not "Finnegan's Wake," or even "Dhalgren," more "City of Saints and Madmen" or "Viriconium." The Divinity Student kept me mesmerized, and I'll certainly seek out more of Cisco's books.

  • Jeff Raymond
    2019-03-18 07:10

    This book is short and to the point, which I'm definitely into, but in terms of "New Weird" (which this qualifies in a sense even though it's older), why this works is the way it builds toward the reveals. You meet the main character, and piece by piece drips out until you see the full picture as to what is happening. And it's wonderful and grotesque and so well put together that it was difficult for me not to really just love what was going on.Closer to a 4.5, as it definitely isn't perfect, but the amount of raves this book has gotten is well-deserved. If you like strange stuff, check it.

  • Slap Happy
    2019-02-21 12:13

    I continue to read Cisco's books despite the fact that they have left me cold on numerous occasions (San Venefico Canon, The Tyrant, The Traitor). And for a couple reasons I come back for more when his next book is released. See, I remember reading about him before I actually read him and what the reviewers had to say about The Divinity Student with its surreal, dreamlike influence over the reader, really clinched it for me and I wanted to take a dip into that weirdo fantasy haziness that was described so effusively by them. I wanted to share in that experience. Even now, I can see on GR that a collection of short stories entitled Secret Hours are out on the market and I am contemplating the merits of giving him yet another go. Thing is, I can sort of see what others are talking about when I read his books. I feel like the next time - that time tittering on an edge which I can almost touch - things will click, I just need give him another shot. My problem has been that I can't become immersed in these worlds. It doesn't pull me in like with other readers who really enjoy what he is doing. The wall remains intact throughout the entire reading experience and halfway through the book becomes a chore to just finish it. All said, he is unique and worth a look.

  • Robert Beveridge
    2019-02-26 14:15

    Michael Cisco, The Divinity Student (Buzzcity Press, 1999)I had somehow gotten it in my head that The Divinity Student was a horror novel. I have no idea how that happened, for it is anything but. This is a fantasy, almost a steampunk novel, that put me in mind more than anything of K. J. Bishop or Ekaterina Sedia, but with the obsession with language more commonly found in Catherynne Valente or China Mieville. (And if you're a fan of any of the above and haven't discovered Michael Cisco yet, do so at your earliest opportunity.) It is beautiful, fascinating, thought-provoking.As we open, the nameless Divinity Student of the title is struck by lightning and killed, but we soon see that this is some sort of common (or at least understood) ritual in this world; the body is returned to the seminary, eviscerated, filled with pages ripped from sacred books, and plunged into water. (I now want to be buried like this.) He then returns to consciousness and is given an assignment by Fasvergil, the head of the seminary; he is to go to San Veneficio, a nearby city, and get work as a word-finder while he waits for further instructions. When he gets them, that's truly amazing (and it's there the plot really kicks off), but just think about the idea of a world where you can go to a city and find work as a word-finder.There are so many wonderful things to say about this book that I'm not even sure where to begin. There are some I can't talk about, because we'd be getting far into spoiler territory, but the writing is just phenomenal; Michael Cisco has a love affair with the language, and it shows. The downside to that is that typographical and proofreading errors made by the press tend to come through more in books like this (and it didn't help that this was the second book in a week that used the odd, but somehow appropriate, phrase “door jam”; as it is spelled right in other places in the book, I'm giving Cisco the benefit of the doubt and blaming the press), but that's not something for which I can blame the author. And the plot here is one of the most original, and pleasurable, I've come across in years. The book is not perfect, though if you're going to err, better to do it this way than the other; if anything, it's shorter than it should be. There are a few chapters that begged to be further fleshed out (“The Final Interview”, especially, could have been twice as long as it is). Still, there's so much about this book to love that you can't go wrong. This is by far one of the best books I've read this year, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Find it and read it as soon as you possibly can. **** ½

  • Charlie L
    2019-02-22 07:59

    If only I could give this book six or seven stars. It is an amazing read, and beautifully weird. I don't know who the Divinity Student is any more now that I've finished the book than I did before I began reading about him, but that is the beauty of this book: knowing him is impossible. He is unreal; he is filled with words, not a heart or lungs or a gallbladder, as the following quotation makes clear:Quickly they bring him inside, lay him across two sawhorses and start cutting at him--they gut him like a fish, cut open from throat to waist, red hands pull his ribs apart, head and shoulders hanging down, his arms lying flat on the ground, tugged back and forth as they empty him out. They dump his contents cooked and steaming on the floor, and bring up stacks of books and manila folders, tearing out pages and shuffling out sheets of paper, all covered with writing, stuffing them inside, tamping them down behind his ribs and crushing them together in his abdomen. (8)He is not a real person, so knowing him, as is desirable in most literature, is impossible. He is a character in a book, which enables the book to be whatever it wants to be. This results in something completely unreal. Throughout the book are passages devoid of reason, such as in the following:A single dry gasp of formaldehyde unfurls from between the Divinity Student's lips, and in it boil a hundred gaping blue faces, and infinitely silent watching things, and many other ones stirring along the ragged edges of the Divinity Student's breath, and more--a deep empty nothing, spreading behind the walls and surging through the floorboards and shimmering inside him. (123)Taking this at face value, the reality of this passage is impossible. The description suggests that a "dry gasp of formaldehyde," presumably a gas, contains "a hundred gaping blue faces," among other things "stirring along the ragged edges of the Divinity Student's breath" (123). Can something that is presumably a gas logically contain blue faces? Is this logical or possible? Can breath contain visual imagery? Is this something even imaginable? It is not, yet this is possible because The Divinity Student is a book, not a description of reality. Its main character is a character, not a fictionalization of human beings. All of which makes the book beautifully weird.

  • Andy
    2019-03-07 08:04

    There's a lot of overused words I could use to describe this: dream-like, hallucinogenic, surreal, bizarro. I can compare this with other writers: Bruno Schulz, Thomas Ligotti, Eric Basso. There's others that come to mind but once you list so many you might as well just say that Cisco has his OWN style. And it's true, there's really nothing quite like this, you just have to read it for yourself.One thing to realize is that you're not going to understand everything that's going on here. Just let the experience wash over you and enjoy it. I read this book in one evening/night and although I wouldn't say you have to do that, I think the manic and building nature of the story benefits from it.This book has it's share of humor early on particularly where the absurdity becomes downright hilarious at times, especially with the colorful characters involved. But half through though things get more serious, and begin to take on a darker character. Set in a searingly hot, labyrinthine city which seems to be in a state disintegration, Cisco throws things into high gear with increasingly disturbing imagery.I think what I liked most about this novel was it's entirely unpredictable, it breaks the mold as far as weird fiction is concerned. If no book has surprised you lately, give this a shot. I will freely admit this isn't for everyone, come with an open mind and be prepared for in-depth reading. This isn't a casual read, nor would I immediately jump into another Cisco novel, but I certainly look forward to doing it again.

  • Nate D
    2019-02-23 13:54

    While still enmeshed in a kind of genre mechanics, this excels in the genuine invention of many of its particulars. I especially enjoy that the occult here lives in language itself -- lost words, secret dictionaries, a language that provides the only access to higher understanding. In these respects, it's a little like Delany's pulpy-philosophic linguistic sci-fi Babel-17. This was legitimately even weirder, with descriptive flights bordering on the waking dreams of automatic writing, but also felt less held together by the weight of its underlying ideas. This was Cisco's first novel, so I expect he only gets better and more individualized from here, though.

  • Dan
    2019-03-01 08:57

    Best . . ... . opening scene .. . . . . amazing city . . . ... man who walks into town . . . .. . use of formaldehyde in fiction . . . ... EVAR.

  • Kasandra
    2019-03-16 08:55

    Strange and compelling, hypnotic and otherworldly, this casts a spell. If you've ever come up from reading a book as if you've been underwater for hours or days, this will do that to you exponentially. An intriguing premise. I do wish some of the characters had been more fully fleshed out, but overall, the book is poetic and trippy, a little reminiscent of Calvino in the best parts. The story runs a little long and there is much repetition in the details of landscape, both external and interior - however, it's incredibly atmospheric, broody, gothic, and odd. Recommended.

  • Yuri Zbitnoff
    2019-03-04 10:55

    Recommended but with caveats.So why "New Weird" and why Michael Cisco in the first place?I'm attracted to this type of fiction for many of the same reasons I'm drawn to certain kinds of out jazz, prog, avant classical, and heavy metal. At its best, this kind of material takes me to some unexplored corner of the human cosmos which I never knew existed, it can make me feel that rush of discovering something new, and perhaps most importantly, it challenges my notions of what is possible. Of course, when it fails, it ends up being a pretentious wank.So that brings us to Michael Cisco. A lot of lofty comparisons have been made to Mr Cisco's work. Poe! Lovecraft! Kafka! Burroughs! Sounds good. I'm game.Does he live up to the hype and avoid the pitfalls? By and large, yes."The Divinity Student" begins with the titular character being struck by lightning, being spirited away to a medical facility, and then gets sliced open to have his organs replaced with books. Then things get really strange.There is a narrative here. It's pretty fried. It's not at all clear what the author intended other than to have the reader puzzle over the meaning/meaninglessness of it but it is oddly compelling.This is essentially a dream put into words. His prose is very dense and deeply surreal. At times, it soars and at others, it taxes. I'm not sure he lives up to all of the lofty comparisons, but he is a real talent and I would read another one of his books. So if any of this sounds like your idea of a good read, pick this up. Otherwise, there are plenty of other books to read.

  • Durant
    2019-03-02 09:01

    Some thoughts on this book: I'm not sure what I've just read. Difficult reading in the beginning, but gets easier as you acclimate to the style. Surreal. Dark. Horrific. Intoxicating. Confusing. Liberating. Refreshing. I can't imagine how you would even write something like this. It's like reading a novel written by someone high on LSD? High on something, perhaps just high on a different wavelength than I am. Not for everyone, but it will challenge you.

  • Matt
    2019-03-13 07:51

    I love "weird fiction" but I really felt that the author was trying too hard to be strange. There was even a quote about having always wanted to write a book that would affect the reader like a hallucination or a spell. It seemed to me that he sacrificed character and story for tone. Read "The Etched City" by Bishop instead.

  • Beth
    2019-02-28 09:14

    Weird*Weird Weird Weird Weird Weird FormaldehydeWeird Oh, I see what this is driving at!**WordsWordsWeird WordsFormaldehydeWeird Weird Weird *Weird here denotes the use of the most beautiful words to make the most stomach-concerning imagery because this book about language takes only the best phrases and arranges them as a uncanny fever dream. **There is plot, really.

  • Rebecca Labbe
    2019-02-24 06:07

    An incredible book by a writer I knew very well as a college student. He was a classmate and friend of mine at college, and I always knew he'd be successful in writing, because his imagination, even then, knew no bounds.

  • Jim
    2019-03-21 07:50

    Quoth the author: "...I've always wanted to write something that would affect my readers like a spell, or a poison, or a drug, or hypnosis. I think reading is a kind of kind of trance, or hypnosis."

  • John
    2019-02-25 12:09

    So far this is the weirdest, meanest, most beastly awesome collection of words I've read all year.

  • Ian Casey
    2019-03-07 06:59

    Michael Cisco's 1999 debut, The Divinity Student, is a black hole of a book. It's so dense as to feel more substantial than many longer novels, to the extent that to call it a novella would feel vaguely insulting. Such are its intricacies that rarely have I felt less qualified to judge a book.It might as easily be classified as dark fantasy or weird horror, to the extent that such categories have worth (which is but little). Comparisons to Borges, Kafka and Burroughs give some indication of its literary mode but Cisco was already his own author at this early stage.The titular Divinity Student (known by no other name) moves through a surreal world of mystical religious magic, where words have real power and 'word-finders' seek to tabulate them for uncertain ends. Yet they are only one aspect of an interconnectedness of mind, body and soul that applies equally to humans, animals and the city of San Veneficio itself. It is this complex matrix of interactions that forms the material the novel is built from and explores.A central plot element is the use of a form of psychic necromancy, wherein the Divinity Student channels and inhabits the memories of dead animal and human minds. The prose is complex and finely crafted throughout, but in these segments particularly it's an impressive exercise in ordered chaos. The narrative voice becomes a stream of consciousness, with odd syntax and long sentences - one of them extremely long - placing the reader in the 'pilot's seat' for the journey.Suffice it to say that there are depths here to plumb and I shall perhaps return to do so one day as a better read version of myself.

  • L.D. Colter
    2019-02-25 11:51

    Very hard to rate this properly due to reading in text-to-speech and no doubt missing much of the wonderful language and imagery. I think I preferred The Narrator (also read in text-to-speech - REALLY wish Michael Cisco's work would find it's way into audio. M John Harrison's too, while I'm at it.), but there were some wonderfully strange concepts in this.

  • Eli Wilkinson
    2019-03-21 05:56

    Honestly the prose in this book is out of this world. You literally read yourself into an acid trip. But even at a lean 149 pages it drags for parts. I'm excited to read Cisco's other work.

  • Jason Brezinski
    2019-02-28 12:15

    Dreams are dangerous.Dreams are especially dangerous when they are shared, when you walk through the dreamer’s internal visions that are unspooling behind their eyelids. Michael Cisco has shared one of his dreams with us. A fever dream of The Divinity Student and what happens to him the city of San Veneficio. What he does in San Veneficio.The Divinity Student is taking a break from his studies at The Seminary. He’s taking a walk in the rain and he climbs a hill. Where he’s struck by lightning. Killed. Fried. This happens on the first page.They cut him open. They toss out his cooked innards. They stuff him with pages. With text. With words. Words become his core. Words bring him back to life.And words become his mission.He is sent to the city, to San Veneficio. The city in the desert. The city where giant monitor lizards surround it at night, their eyes reflecting the lights of city. The city where the heat presses down on the streets and plazas and where demons live in the trees.In San Veneficio, he is trained to retrieve memories from the dead. He starts with dead animals, works his way up to humans. He’s taught this skill because of the Catalog of Unknown Words. The Catalog lists the words used in the Eclogue, the dialogues between the shepherds of men. These dialogues are the substance of Creation, according to the Seminary Priest who gives the Student his mission.The Divinity becomes a Mad Scientist, creating machinery to extract the memories from the dead brains of the scholars who created the Catalogue in the first place. To extract the words. He becomes lost in memories, dreams, hallucinations. He lives on formaldehyde. Every Mad Scientist needs an Igor. The Divinity Student has Teo Desden, the butcher who dreams of the day when he’s the one getting chopped apart on his counters. Desden with his sharpened knives and cleavers. Desden who makes the bodies disappear.But the Seminary doesn’t know what it has resurrected. The Student goes rogue, flooded with the power and dreams taken from the brains of dead men.Phantasmagoria. Visions. Dreams. Cisco evokes the Student’s shifting internal landscape with immaculate skill. The read feels how the membrane of reality trembles around the Student as he walks along the street of San Veneficio, as the buildings stare down in dumb regard. And outside the walls, the monitor lizards look on with reflective eyes. Knowing more than they let on.The outbreaks of superpowers that contort the Student’s body, fling him dancing and leaping over the roofs of the city.Come on. Share this dream. Read just a page. Just one. It won’t hurt.

  • Feda
    2019-02-20 07:04

    I found this to be difficult read. I frequently found myself drifting off and away from the book, especially during the first half of the book, because the author drifted away from the story and into nonsensical, hallucinogenic descriptions that were self serving and too long. The book had it moments, especially the parts that focus more on the story being told. Not that all of the imagery was bad, some of it was quite interesting, but the author was frequently pushing to hard and falling of the edge. The second half of the book was an easier read with a little bit less of the fluff that bogged down the first half of the book. I think that I would have enjoyed the book more if the weird and strange was toned down a little to where it wasn't overwhelming the story that was being told. The way the book turned out it feels like the story was something to support the visual aspects of the book and not the other way around.

  • Josh
    2019-02-20 13:06

    A really compelling read that defies description (or narrative logic). It is ostensibly about a Divinity Student (unnamed - everyone simply calls him by his title) who, after being struck by lightning is brought back from the dead after being stuffed with religious texts. The protagonist is then sent to the city and undertakes a secret mission involving lost words and dead bodies.It's really best to just not think about it, and revel in Cisco's lush writing. His style, at times, is ponderous and gets bogged down in detail, but when it hits the mark, it is electric. Passages and descriptions will linger, and you'll want to savor and move them around your mouth like a good wine.

  • Bryan
    2019-02-26 09:02

    This begins with its protagonist being struck by lightning, abducted by mysterious figures, cut open and stuffed full of pages from ancient texts. Somehow, it manages to end on an even stranger note, leaving more questions than answers, but not in an unsatisfying way. The book manages to balance hallucinatory passages with memorable imagery, a compelling storyline and even some frenetic action scenes. I enjoyed the characters, but didn't know enough about them to become emotionally invested with their fates, which were left (fittingly) unclear.

  • Nick Anderson
    2019-03-13 11:07

    I had no idea you could write this way. Each surreal image is rendered so clearly, I had trouble getting myself back out of it. It's a hard read - there's no skimming, and it might take you as long to read as a novel twice its length. I wouldn't say there was much in the way of a satisfying narrative arc, either - rather, this is a good book for someone looking to drift idly in the imagery of another world, not race to an ending point. I read it on a 12 hour plane flight, so I was a captive audience - but I loved every second I spent in San Venificio.

  • David Bridges
    2019-03-16 08:48

    I just finished this book and all I can say is WOW! From the brutal opening chapter to the beautiful ending and the whole hallucinatory ride in between, I was captivated. This is the only thing I have read from Cisco but I intend to devour his whole catalog now. This is one of the best books I personally have ever read. My mind has been thoroughly fucked. I felt like I was a kid again reading this book. I can understand if this isn't you're cup of tea but if you don't "understand" it you're not reading it right...

  • Tyrannosaurus regina
    2019-02-28 05:49

    So on the one hand, I love the vividly strange imagery, the glorious idea of being a word-finder, and the dreamlike transitions from state to state. On the other, I felt like it almost leaned too far in the direction of surrealism when I was yearning for more meaty detail about his existence and vocation. I love the weird, but it turns out I love the weird most within a stronger narrative line. Still, not something I'm going to soon forget.

  • Kevin
    2019-03-23 07:53

    After much delay, I took the plunge and decided to see what all the fuss was about.I've seen other reviews mention Kafka, but for me, Cisco (in this book) is more an heir of Alfred Kubin, Bruno Schulz, and Gustav Meyrink. Hallucinatory, diviniatory (pun only slightly intended) and putting the "romantic" back in "necromantic". Everything I wanted, including things I didn't know I wanted, and more.The fuss is very, very well-warranted.

  • Peter
    2019-03-09 06:08

    Ok, I tried two of Cisco's books, and it's clear: his writing is just not for me.While I liked the New Weird books of Jeff Vandermeer and K.J. Bishop, this is just too vague and weird for me. There were some great passages, but then a wooden dialogue would snap me out of it again.Often it was surreal and weird for weirdness sake, 'Look at me! I'm so weird!', other times it reminded me of some of my fellow students in philosophy classes I took, 'Look at me! I'm so smart!'.