I’ve heard good things about Tregillis’ works and their historical-fantasy settings and vibes, and given that this book is a standalone (often my preference) and a noir detective to boot I was drawn.
What to Expect
Read the blurb, and then notch it up several degrees… sideways. Tregillis goes for high-intensity literary devices, where the prose is as important as the story and one has to invest in order to savour and enjoy the novel. Even past that, the plot, the world-building, and the view-points are complex and hard to follow at times. Tregillis mixes quantum physics with religious metaphysics, while upending both. He uses noir tropes heavily (with an in-story reason) including a first-person POV, but shifts and alternates with a different, 3rd-person POV that’s quite different. The world building varies from a near-future, slightly eco-dystopian environment to a metaphysical concept salad.
The best way to describe the mind-bending experience of reading this book, is imagine if Thomas Aquinas and Erwin Schrödinger had a love-child who did too much LSD in the 60’s and thought himself a hard-boiled character out of Raymond Chandler’s 1940’s mysteries.
What I liked
I did enjoy the noir tropes and the way Tregillis has an in-story explanation for them. The advanced prose and literary devices (which add layers of complexity beyond the story) are a tour de force of virtuosity, but mean that one has to constantly read the novel at various levels to get the full experience.
What to be aware of
The prose is very ornate, which is obvious from the first page. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s not a book to tear through quickly. Sometimes the constant mixing of sensory input and quantum-metaphysical ideas can get a bit much, though.
As always with books that mix real physics with religious metaphysics there are… difficulties. While Tregillis’ upending of tropes is excellent and refreshing, there are certain unanswered questions.
Felix found the time Bayliss spends in the metaphysical realm interesting, comparable to his own numina (the divine spirits). He says it certainly explains why us mortals need to eat psylocibin (funny mushrooms) to view it. He’d just recommend not writing your memoirs while under the influence, as readers tend to get confused easily.
It’s a very interesting work, but not an easy read. If you’re in the mood to read something highly literary, something for the aesthetics of storytelling as much as for the speculative story, give this a try.
Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He’s the protagonist of the Toags, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome. Come meet him via the free short stories!