Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Randal Graham's Beforelife

The Beforelife Delusion is the belief that one previously died before one came to the place of Randal Graham's novel, which goes by the name of Detroit. People arrive in Detroit by rising up out of the River Styx. In Detroit the delusion is mostly treated as a harmless form of madness that for most people seems to go away in time.

But for Ian Brown his earlier memories are particularly specific and important to him: he remembers slipping and being hit by an oncoming train, he remembers his job as a minor bureaucrat, but mostly he remembers his wife Penelope. And he's unwilling to give up his memory of her. He does not believe it's simply delusion, and he's horrified by the thought that his own memories might fade as they do for others.

There's also a plot to overthrow the leadership of Detroit, and Ian Brown is stuck of the middle of it.

Graham's style is jokey and frenetic; his inventiveness just keeps on coming. If you don't like one joke, hang on, another will come along soon, so no need to worry. Here's one I laughed at:
Cathedraphilia, it turns out, is a little-known (and rarely documented) fetish that features numerous sub-fetishes including those relating to bells, spires, and organs. For a more thorough discussion see Bezel Finnigan's popular text, Building Relationships (which, coincidentally, inspired the Non-Ambiguous Title Movement in 14,386 after complaints from Finnigan's unsuspecting readership).
I do have to say, though, that the plot suffered from the ongoing zaniness at times. And there were various oddities. Getting back together with Penelope may be a story you've heard before; I was just brushing up on it recently myself. But that's not exactly what happens here. Also one Napoleon in an insane asylum is not unheard-of, but six? There's only one place I know of for Six Napoleons. I kept expecting them to get smashed one by one. The use of literary allusions can, of course, be playful, but they, too, seemed to run contrary to the story at times.

Anyway, it had some good jokes. I wanted more attention to the story, though.

ARC provided by ECW Press

1 comment: