I’ve been a reader all my life. I majored in English in college and grad school, and I’ve worked in bookstores since 1992, most of that as a buyer. I’m surrounded by books at home and work and I see new ones every day. It’s sometimes difficult to quantify why certain books speak to us; why we pick up this book, but not that one.
Other times, it’s not difficult at all:
Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and willfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you’ll believe a word of it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m in love.
With an opening like that, how can I not climb on board for the ride? Sure, I understand that this kind of narrator turns some people off (well, I know that; I don’t really understand it). But for me, it’s the sign of an author who wants to play--who wants me as the reader to take a more active role in the story, and I love that. It’s both clever and witty (and neatly kneecaps disgruntled reviewers: I told you it was implausible people, so no complaints!) and nicely sets the tone for the tale to come.
The story itself is everything the narrator promises (with the exception of pedestrian prose--I really liked the writing). You’ve got Edward Moon, stage magician and detective, and his silent partner in both endeavors, the Somnambulist, a giant of a man who never speaks and holds many secrets. You’ve got warm-hearted housekeepers, sybaritic layabouts, spiritualists, gung-ho police inspectors, and freakshow prostitutes. You’ve got grizzly murders, mysterious disappearances, secret societies, shadowy government organizations, the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the shadow of past mistakes.
It’s a generous, sprawling, maddeningly convoluted story. I just finished it, and I’m still not sure exactly what happened. I can’t wait to read it again and find out, though.