ALL THOSE VANISHED ENGINES by Paul Park

ALL THOSE VANISHED ENGINES

KIRKUS REVIEW

Science fiction–ish, fantasy-ish, alternate history–ish work in three ostensibly independent parts, from the author of The Hidden World (2008, etc.)

The first part is set in the years following the Civil War, in which the Queen of the North has negotiated a two-nation settlement. Paulina lives in Virginia near the site of the Battle of the Crater with the family of a cousin, Col. Adolphus Claiborne. She has no idea who her real parents are or were and occupies herself writing a fictitious history of the future and remembering things that didn’t happen. The Crater still exists. Perhaps the Yankees built a tunnel at the bottom to convey troops and munitions via steam engine to the heart of the battle. Maybe the engine blew up, or maybe a battle was fought. The second part shifts to northwestern Massachusetts, where, in an era resembling the present, a (real-life) installation by artist Stephen Vitiello inspired by a text by Park (go ahead, look it up) imagines an abandoned building as the site of a secret World War II project to explore the industrial production of sound. Its narrator, an author and academic writing a collaborative novel and whose sister is autistic, may or may not be the Park who inspired the installation. The final part features a near-future U.S. depopulated by pandemics; gated communities; the old Park family house; and a virtual reality called Second Life. Its narrator, whose name is Park, creates metafiction in a ruined library by selecting random passages from books written by family members that he then combines into prophetic narratives. Characters from extant Park stories reappear. These unreliable narrators and viewpoints are woven into a recursive text with temporal inversions and references to other versions of events not directly in evidence. Of course, none of this may be true. This might or might not be a text. You might or might not be reading it.

Park’s metafictions have their devotees, but readers just looking for an enjoyable story will look elsewhere.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7653-7540-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2014




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