Atmospheric. Metatextual. Short sentences. No quotation marks. Evocative of McCarthy. Evocative in general. Europe descends to war. People fight the Nazis. The Nazis fight back. Also Vietnam. Also superheroes.
l Noirish pulp. Again. He’s very good at this, the whole atmosphere thing. That’s a bit of a double edged sword though, to be honest.
l The vibe works when it enhances the setting and character. Down-at-heel British secret agents during WWII, say, are served very (very) well by it.
l Women, not so much. The needle on the Bechdelmeter once more rests untwitchingly at 0.
l This stems naturally from the generic conventions Tidhar is manipulating here, of course. But, equally of course (go with it), if you’re going to manipulate some conventions it’s reasonable to ask why not others.
l Am I being hard on this aspect because I recently ragged on a (much, much worse) book for similar failings? Probably. Lots of good stuff here otherwise.
l Strong characterization; interesting central conceit committed to completely and to striking effect; compelling plot; nicely conspiratorial use of the first person plural; skillful intercutting of the frame narrative to manipulate tension.
l Really, great characters. Particularly enjoyed the understated ambiguity of the relationship between Oblivion and Fogg, the central pairing.
l Also enjoyed the admittedly slightly hackneyed comparison between the muted behind-the-scenes operation of the British superheroes (empire in decline, best days have been to pass; Bureau of Superannuated Affairs; an entire nation being pensioned off. Ha!) against the loud, flashy, rising power of the Americans.
In summary: it lacks a bit of the “I’ve never read anything like this” smack that defined Osama, but perhaps that’s to be expected. It also lacks for some of the former book’s quotable linguistic riffs; nothing especially springs to mind as being worth hunting down, as the linguistic flourish is cumulative instead of exemplary. Still a great book though, in a way that’s both similar and quite different to its predecessor, which is very encouraging; artistic growth and what have you. More importantly, it’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to find a quiet corner at work to sneak in a few pages of reading, so it was a joy to find a book which made that necessary again. Anything which can motivate me to finish the marking quickly so I can steal some time to read must be doing something (several things) right.