"This has always been about writing
" (425), the central insight in a novel that presents as its overt antagonists, for most of the way, an opposed pair of graphical persons. For each, "his communications were
That the additional, covert antagonist's plan--to place certain historical facts under erasure, via katachronophlogiston
(nice!) is not inconsistent with the more obvious two villains. The hidden antagonist is a perfectly tragic character in the hegelian sense, "his faith had been defeated by the evidence, and he could not stop missing that faith," disagreeing fatally with himself (497). He explains the tragedy as "not an intellectual mistake," but rather "a way of thinking about all sorts of other things"--such as "the Virgin birth's a way of thinking about women," the ark about animal husbrandry, creationism about self-evaluation, and so on (257-58). It's very thougtful, even though we can predict that the author is not personally sympathetic.
That the narrative has always been about writing is revealed early, as the first scene involves the erasure of a doomsayer's written prophetics (3). We are informed that the central protagonist works at the Darwin Centre (5), which, from its
center, sent forth "a Schwarzschild radius of something not canny," for "a cephalopod corpse was the singularity" (10).
But: at this central singularity of the Centre, "the room was empty," for the "dead giant squid was gone" (id.). The narrative therefore commences with a radical decentering of its central proposition.
The narrative thereafter continues, reinforcing the decentering by noting that "it could not have gone, but there it was, not" (11), the protagonist "standing by the lack" (12), a protagonist, we are subsequently reminded, is to play the role of Dante on a journey through inferno
(14), one which will carry him to the "centre of London" itself very quickly (25). As though the derridean implications were not sufficiently tendentious with these bits, we are reminded that "the movement that looks like not moving" is the best move of all (114).
The narrative that follows these opening conditions twists and turns like a twisty turny thing, with the standard roll-call of mievillesque creatures, characters, and transactions. Is anything ever recentered? No idea--though the conclusion is not exactly opaque, I'm unsure what all was averted and what inflicted.
There's likely much to be said about this volume's presentation of religious violence and labor activism--which should be considered intimately related (especially because of the nasty quasi-theological turn that marxism may have taken in the hands of numerous unskilled leftists who hoped for a promised end in the workers' paradise, but only after the world had passed through the retributory fires of proletarian anger).
Otherwise noteworthy for a long list of memorable unsavories. Bonus points for Pynchon allusions, functional Star Trek
technologies, and a few slick meditations on fascism. Some minor references to the Bas Lag writings as well as to King Rat
and some of the settings in Looking for Jake
. Kickass that wizardry is exposed as "a petty bourgeois world" (301). Better yet that "laughing hipsters" are presented as drinking while the world ends (415). Not sure otherwise what to make of the competing eschatologies, fake apocalypses, premature enrapturations. Also haven't decided what the subtitle ("An Anatomy") might mean, though my bet is menippean satire (via Frye's commentary on Burton).
Well recommended for extreme origamists, diagnostic urbopathologists, and epoch-ending executioners.