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Book Review – The Fury by John Farris

The Fury reissue book cover larger

Horror fans will most likely know the story of The Fury through Brian DePalma’s 1978 film adaptation. Released just two years after his other classic movie about teens with supernatural powers, The Fury stars Kirk Douglas and Amy Irving, and is famous for its rather “explosive” ending. Now, fans can read the original novel that started it all. First published in 1976, author John Farris’s The Fury is back in print again from Chicago Review Press as part of their Rediscovered Classics series.

The Fury follows wealthy teenager Gillian Bellaver, who discovers that she has powerful and sometimes dangerous psychic abilities. This gets the attention of an equally dangerous organization called MORG that seeks to use people with these abilities for their own sinister purpose. At the same time, government assassin Peter Sandza is trying to save his son Robin from the clutches of this organization, and finds use in Gillian, who is Robin’s psychic twin.

The Fury keeps things interesting for the reader by being both a supernatural thriller and fugitives-on-the-run story. Though admittedly a bit confusing at the beginning, following these separate stories as they build and come together into one only makes things more exciting for the climax. Farris gives the reader time with each of his three main characters–Robin, Peter, and Gillian–to understand the complexity of each of their situations and emotionally connect with them. His writing is raw and unflinching, not afraid to be shocking with either his descriptions of violence or the torrid inner-workings of his characters’ minds.

Still of Amy Iriving from The Fury 1978

Farris also brilliantly expands on the idea of psychic phenomenon with what Robin and Gillian are capable of–their powers go beyond just touching a person and being able to see into his or her life. As children, the two of them used to communicate telepathically, what Robin calls “Visiting.” But the even more dangerous aspect of their powers is the Scanners-like ability to bleed people out from the inside, most effectively carried out while in a heightened emotional state. These scenes are presented in quite a horrifying and intense way, especially the one with Gillian’s unfortunate victim in the hospital.

The most compelling aspect of The Fury is the way Farris explores the extremities of power through the characters of Robin and Gillian. He shows how it can affect people in wildly different ways under different circumstances. Within the care of the Psi Facility, Robin is doted on and groomed, but has no real personal connections with anybody. He knows that he is being used, even by the woman with whom he is having a sexual relationship and who claims to care about him. His connection with Gillian is fading. Because of all this, he becomes less emotionally attached and almost insane, which makes his power even more dangerous.

Movie poster for The Fury 1978

Gillian, on the other hand, spends most of the story rejecting her power. Not yet knowing how to properly harness it, she sees time after time with people she cares about how powerful she really is, and it understandably terrifies her. She doesn’t want to be around people and even seems to wish for death by the end. Peter teaches her that it doesn’t have to be that way, that she can eventually control it somehow. Motivation is the difference between Robin and Gillian. The old Spider-Man adage of “With great power comes great responsibility” is really what is at work here, and the choice of the person in power to use it for either good or evil. Though we don’t know what happens to Gillian after all is said and done, the reader is left feeling hopeful because she is able to make the right choice.

As a book that is more than 40 years old, The Fury holds up remarkably well today. It remains a haunting story about deceit, betrayal, and personal corruption, and about the different paths that one can take in life when in the possession of immense power. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or of supernatural stories in general, The Fury is one you won’t want to miss.

The Fury is now available through Chicago Review Press.

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Written by Michele Eggen
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Michele Eggen has been writing about all things horror at her blog, The Girl Who Loves Horror, since 2010. She loves anything having to do with ghosts or the supernatural realm. Her favorite films are Poltergeist and Child's Play.
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