An absorbing story about the end of the world—or the ends of many worlds.
Charlie is the Harbinger of Death. Death used to use eagles for the job but says “one must move with the times” and has been using humans for a few thousand years. Charlie doesn’t actually see anyone die; he goes to them beforehand—his appearance is sometimes a mark of respect, sometimes a warning. Sometimes he visits an individual, sometimes he goes to see the end of a way of life, like the last person who speaks a language. Charlie’s story unfolds in a series of impressions. He travels, he drops into vivid, fascinating, emotionally compelling lives, and then he moves on. People react strongly to his appearance—some are angry, some attempt to negotiate, some simply accept. Meanwhile, his employer, Death, the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and their Harbingers travel the world as well, observing the way it's changing. And every now and then, a sort of Greek chorus of voices chimes in, expressing the noisy still-aliveness of this changing world. There's an apocalypse here, but it's a messy one, happening in fits and starts, everywhere all at once. The book suffers from the lack of a conventional plot—it’s episodic and impressionistic, never straightforward—but it gradually works its magic on the reader. North (Touch, 2015, etc.) is a strong writer, and Charlie’s journey has real emotional power.
Readers who can handle the unconventional structure will find this book wholly original and hauntingly beautiful. North is a writer to watch.