From debut author Griffiths, a novel about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse that imagines new aspects of the famous quartet.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Pestilence, Famine and Death) make no secret of their intentions as they reveal themselves in varied ways in this work of fiction. By means ranging from memos to an ongoing press conference—and in a sinister tone that befits figures entrusted with bringing about the end of time—they comment on and joke about topics as diverse as the difficulty of creating pestilence in a world of modern hygiene and the possibility that multiple universes exist. These supernatural figures wreak a strange variety of havoc (typically involving death) in locations as diverse as Perth Amboy, N.J., and Vietnam. Among this whirlwind of places and activities are mentions of figures ranging from the jazz musician Eric Dolphy to the science-fiction author Norman Spinrad, not to mention biblical verses, a lengthy episode involving the artist Salvador Dalí and language that is often convoluted (e.g., “tiger wallah pick up tomorrow’s FRANCE-SOIR Vassily’s toenails”). Making sense of it all is a project in and of itself, as moments of clear narration give way to absurdity, obscure references and a seeming lack of interest in making anything easy for the reader to understand. Ambitious in its scale and hardly stereotypical in its treatment of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the text as a whole is as creative as it is difficult. In spite of opening pages that reveal the upcoming cast of characters (with information such as “Mrs. Maisie: Iowa farm owner and occasional employer of the Horsemen”), any reader attempting to navigate the 550-plus pages ahead of him or her must be prepared for a difficult, complex ride.
Grand in scale and exemplary in its knowledge on a variety of topics, the book proves to be a challenge to follow though not necessarily to enjoy.