Metafiction and metaphysics collide in this hugely ambitious debut novel.
After his discovery of a cure for psychosis leads to international acclaim and the Nobel Prize, Dr. Morris Fitzmaurice is unable to handle the pressure of his newfound fame, and he tumbles into a vortex of drugs and alcohol that eventually leaves him comatose. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, nervous citizens await the return of a messiah-like figure, the Render, who will save them from an evil sweeping through the land. Back on Earth, Morris’s invention of Copenhagen II, a drug sold by a company called PUCK–one of the many overt references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which acts as a controlling metaphor throughout the narrative–has gained popularity as a means to access the alternate realities postulated by modern physics. In the fantasy world, warring factions battle over control of The Book of Night, a vaguely biblical text–written in a Joycean mÃ©lange of allusions and puns–that tells the past, present and future of the world. These two worlds collide in Morris’s comatose state, with references to the Bible, quantum physics and string theory, various creation myths, Shakespeare, Joyce, Beckett, Plato and more. Occasionally, the intertextual references become excessive–such as when Morris traipses around his hometown in the fashion of Leopold Bloom (on June 16, no less)–and may cause readers to wonder about the author’s purpose, especially considering that this is well-worn postmodern territory. Still, the interplay of narrative and idea is evidence of Callahan’s impressive intelligence and research, and readers will enjoy the ride.
Notable for its ambition and erudition.