Friday, July 26, 2013
A Chimera of a Novel
The White Fire Virus kills most of its victims, overwhelming their bodies with an onslaught of parasites. Yet, those able to survive find themselves endowed with the supernatural ability to manipulate the basic particles of light. Most of these survivors call themselves "angels," and many on Earth believe them.
As society falls to pieces, an elite group of Virus-carriers known as the Watchers is tasked with recovering a growing number of missing children in the Washington, DC area.
When Watcher agents Robert Goldner and Darryl Ridley receive a hot tip on the location of a Virus-infected girl who disappeared shortly after attempting to massacre half her high school, they prepare to chalk up another success. But when they instead find the girl's best friend from school, beaten nearly to death, they become entwined in a conspiracy involving magick, bizarre creatures, fantastic realms beyond space and time, and even the death of God.
Broken Angels is a contemporary fantasy where metaphysics takes precedence. Think Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials aimed at adults (or mature readers of any age). Philosophical and heretical, action-packed and surreal . . .
There is a portion of this book, in which the character, Darryl, meets a chimera- a being composed of the parts of many animals. These creatures are mythological and may have the head of a lion, with the body of a horse, the wings of an eagle, the tail of a snake...any combination. It strikes me that this book is very much like the being described in this passage.
In the beginning of this book, it would appear to be an action novel, set in a futuristic scene. You are following two virus carriers, whose super-human abilities allow them to manipulate light- causing themselves to be invisible, or allowing them to direct pointed beams at opponents' eyes. They are hunting lost children, to reunite them with their parents, but they keep coming up against a terrorist organization called the Indefinite Definite. The Indefinite Definite, or ID, remind me a lot of the Joker's gang from Batman. They are all unhinged, super-violent and they have a flare for costumes and drama. At first, it would seem that these confrontations will drive the conflict of the book.
But, as you are coming into the second half of the novel, the tone shifts. There begin a series of discussions of art, poetry, and music. The characters spend time reflecting on the nature of reality, and the author introduces the realm of Xyn-Chroma- a dimension composed of the thoughts and creations of all of humanity. At first, this shift feels jarring. Like the old commercial for Reese's Cups: "Hey! You got peanut butter in my chocolate!" I felt like, "Hey! You got a philosophy book in my sci-fi action story!"
But if you stick with it, I think the philosophical bent actually adds more interest to this world that Grey-Sun has created. There are themes about the dissolution of the nuclear family and the consequences of that on the future. There are speculations on the spiritual. But, the real conflict of the novel will involve the disparity between reality as we know it, and the world of Xyn-Chroma where anything is possible. Can these realms exist separately, or are they doomed to collide? And if they do, what happens to life as we currently know it?
So, like the chimera, this book is more than what it initially appears to be. The author loves symbolism, so expect to spend some time after reading chapters, digesting what was presented and analyzing the metaphors. This is a complex work- one that you need to sit with for a while if you are to truly appreciate it. If you like poetry, or puzzles- if you like those bigger "why are we here and what does any of it mean" sort of questions, then you will probably like this book. The other few reviews I have seen, are all over the place. Some people love this book, some hate it. I think it will largely depend on your personality to determine what camp you fall in.
Author's website: http://nextpoet.net/