A sharp, tight novel. So conceptually intricate that I marvel at its form as well as the prose itself. In the first few pages, I thought I was reading a noir detective novel - it has such an economical kind of prose, and intricately plotted segments, that I was getting ready to fit puzzle pieces together.
I don't know if the writer would agree with this, but I found in this book, a compelling depiction of humanity. Through the representation of the underbelly of society, the full vividness and intensity of the currents of life is conveyed. Are we not all in some sense victims of the complexity of society, circumstance?-- Pulled by forces, inadvertances beyond our control. Employing an allegorical narrative voice, all the travails that each of us encounters to a lesser degree, is condensed into a searing tableau of events.
Most interesting to this reader was how disembodied the narrative voice was. Most of the time, it's recording fragments of experience. And so, the moments when it reflects on itself - seeing itself reflected in a window, for example, is really striking. Other times, it's just like a voyeuristic eye, roaming through the streets, which it can detail uncannily well (impossibly well, it's so photographic as to be unreal - and so adds to the sense of disembodied-ness). And because it can document everything from such a birds-eye-perspective / all-encompassing perspective, at the beginning of the novel at least, the authorial voice seems split. Between the real Chabney, and this meta-Chabney. It's just a really interesting effect. It reminds me of the narrative voice of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which kind of does the same thing. Omnipresent, and yet personal. And of course, Invisible Man is also a novel about the struggles of selfhood.
The passage when this reader felt it became really embodied, was when Chabney is lying in Gawene's lap, and there's a utter sense of calm with one's own body ... as if the roaming mind matched its seat (body) for the first time. And then the wonder at Gawene's body, the description of a growing fetus ... it's a beautiful contrast to the beginning of the novel.
Ultimately then, the book allows for a vision of hope. In some ways, the darkness of the background (which the writer so so expertly evokes) was only ever a backdrop to better offset the delicacy of hope, when it does come.