Augusto’s debut novel tells a complex tale of suffering, bravery, and the bonds between the living and the dead.
The story’s prologue is set in 2047, after civilization has collapsed. As families gather around their nightly campfires, a father begins to tell his children “how everything changed, and why.” The first chapter opens two years earlier with Yann, a good-natured, autistic boy, riding a mysteriously empty train. He disembarks and joins up with Ani, a bulldog who can communicate with him telepathically, and learns that they must journey through a strange, beautiful realm called Heaven in order to locate two magical stones that can free the dangerous creatures trapped there. This quest forms the novel’s backbone, but several chapters focus on other characters, such as James, a surgeon driven into alcoholic despair after the disappearance of his son; Yann’s father, Tim, a detective obsessively pursuing a serial killer; and Reynald, the half-alien architect of Heaven. Although multiple plotlines are in play, most of them converge on Reynald’s Heaven, which, despite its name, is more a physical location than a spiritual concept. Characters are often abruptly transported to different places and experience other strange events. James, for example, has a vision of being pursued through an empty hospital; after this turns out to be a nightmare, he boards a plane, which crashes, and then he inexplicably awakens on a beach next to his late wife. Overall, the novel has an intriguing premise. But the frequent, abrupt transitions create a confusing whiplash effect, and some plot elements, such as a strange character who briefly stalks James, are never clearly explained. Characters tend to be merely types—the workaholic detective, the pure and innocent child, the washed-up surgeon—and they experience extreme and maudlin emotions instead of subtler character development. Perhaps further events in a future installment will bring them together into an enjoyably epic story, but this first book struggles to be coherent.
A supernatural tale that falls flat due to confusing plot developments and saccharine characterization.