Hard-boiled intrigue and dense religious satire make for an intriguing and memorable read.
Slick private eye Phaeton Troupe is an endearing protagonist with the wits of Sam Spade and the endurance of Job. In the midst of gritty freelance work, including unearthing marital infidelity and tracking down a missing child, Phaeton is contacted by various supernatural beings about his supposed role in the future of mankind. During a lengthy lecture from someone called the Preacher, Phaeton learns that God, identified here as the Emanator, has selected him to either inaugurate the apocalypse or prevent it. It’s not entirely clear, however, that Phaeton must adhere to the will of immortal beings, and his choice to intermittently reject everything but his ethereal life forms the story’s central charm. The author’s decision to make his hero African-American offers a welcome change to the standard detective novel, since Phaeton, whose fate seems mysteriously linked to the fact that he was born on the same day that the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, strongly identifies as an outsider–a trait that suits his profession and his ethnic background. It takes a while to get used to Williams’s heavy-handed existential discourse between various angelic beings and humans, but the narrative works more often than it doesn’t thanks to its consistency. Williams clearly takes the approach of a deist rather than an atheist in his portrayal of godly powers, a decision that directly affects his storytelling. In addition to the ideology, the story has a competent noir plot involving a power-hungry mafia lord that keeps the thrill factor in check.
An extraordinarily creative yarn.