A young woman must outthink and outplay a group of men trying to uncover the deepest secrets of the universe (with the help of clues left by Marcel Duchamp) in Rose’s debut novel.
Lee has always felt invisible, taking advantage of this by shoplifting and dealing drugs to her high school classmates. When her friend Edie turns her in, Lee is sent to juvenile detention and then the psych ward, from which she manages to escape. Homeless, friendless, and directionless, Lee stumbles upon a group of other lost teens who live in the Crystal Castle under the control of a mysterious figure known as the Station Master. When she steals a strange object that turns out to be a work of art by Marcel Duchamp, Lee has no idea that she has attracted the obsessive interest of a shadowy and dangerous society that effectively worships Duchamp. They believe he left clues in his art that reveal the key to immortality, and they are willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to decipher them. Together with her friend Tomi, an art fanatic who likes to creep around abandoned buildings, Lee fights to stay one step ahead of the Société Anonyme, which seems to have spies everywhere and which has determined that Lee herself is central to their dastardly plans. The novel is complex on many intellectual levels, drawing heavily on theories of art history and physics, and the mystery is deep and satisfying in both its unpredictability and its culmination. The sheer scope is impressive, as are Rose’s evocative descriptions of underground and abandoned places, reminiscent of David Lynch’s films. Lee, despite being a strong survivor, doesn’t captivate, however. Her survival depends on her ability to be self-sufficient and to separate herself from people, which also estranges her from the reader.
Admirably ambitious but lacking in soul.