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The Tension of Glossy Fiction
Transubstantiate packs quite a thrill. I devoured it in two days then regretted my insatiability as I discovered the many clues and symbols I had missed in my voraciousness. The book is dense and it is fast.
pg 68 "One minute he was working himself into a frenzy, arms flailing around, shouting about drugs and sickness, immunity and headaches, vomiting and sterilization. The next he was on the ground with a pool of blood expanding around his head. [...] Next thing I knew we were here. Wherever that is. Phoenix, I think. The drugs.
'We all on the same page here?' the man continues. I'm not sure if we're reading the same book."
Richard Thomas takes risks few writers can, and he does so without a trace of pretension. This debut novel defies convention-plucking what it wants from several genres-and will be, I believe, one of many well-chosen risks of a long, prolific career on the cutting edge of dark fiction. He writes the stories he wants to read, and he does it well. There's a heartfelt authenticity that comes through in the narrative; the prose is unflinching in its grit and doe-eyed in its sincerity. Which, incidentally, is a fine method of seduction.
pg 23 "The gentle push and pull, the tension of glossy friction, I am empty and full, empty and full. Empty."
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Noir Gets Spiritual (and God is nowhere to be found)
Casual brutality, sex, and disorder: the heroes of noir have never been terribly endearing to the heart, but the seven nihilistic souls of Richard Thomas' Transubstantiate seem like they were born ruined, and are likely to die that way. The story draws heavily on all the beloved accouterments of the neo-noir tradition- fractured narratives; cynicism; disorientation; ruthless beatings- but the story branches out into other areas, exploring themes of mysticism and the unknowable, even broaching the peripheral terrors of Lovecraftian horror.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
We follow our seven characters over the course of events in both real time and in flashbacks as they struggle for survival in the throes of exponentially-worsening disasters. If it's bad, it likely gets worse.
The plot noose tightens: a virus, an experiment on a remot island, and two powerful forces squaring off: X vs.Assigned. The chief antagonist, Assigned's narrative thread is largely represented by nothing but a chilling readout of computer language and script logs; an abandoned program grown sentient, or something worse. Assigned is watching every move that's made on island, but who (or what) is it? A program gone haywire, or the tangible shard of some alien consciousness? Was mankind in collusion with dark forces? The character known as X seems to have an idea. In fact, he may even have been one such force; a manipulative mystic, spiritually (but not morally) enlightened, possibly inhuman, and acting as something of a psychic warden at the behest of those running the experiment. Willingly, of course. X is furthering his own agenda; this makes him somewhat detached from the plight of mankind, despite that he's probably the best shot it now has for survival. His powers are shamanistic in nature- mental projection, healing, divination. His true motives are unclear. Is X an agent for humanity's evolution, or the harbinger of its collapse?
Though the plot is a veritable straitjacket of mysteries the telling is lean, even spare: this book is brisk, wicked, and blood-soaked. In fact, the story reads much like a 200-page climax- Thomas' writing is always on the move, always frantic, surging forward essentially without pause, all while maintaining an intricate weave of narrative threads with deceptive ease.
Posted June 15, 2011
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