Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: Doyle After Death by John Shirley

Doyle After Death by John Shirley

339 pages

Witness Impulse (Harper paperback)

Known for his novels of science fiction and horror John Shirley has several classics in both those genres. With more than one novel in each category that is strong enough to be considered classics and masterpieces. Known for political edged genre with a message the majority of John Shirley novels deliver intense experiences unlike novels written by anyone else. Each novel has different feel but more than any other novel in recent years I can’t think of one I can compare Doyle After Death with.

Doyle After Death is a metaphysical mystery, what I can compare it to is Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come. That comes mostly from the afterlife setting, but beyond that they are very different novels. They share a conceit, but Matheson’s novel is a love story and this novel is murder mystery.

Nick Fogg our narrator dies on the first page and ends in a afterlife that at first seems like our world. Shirley sets up the rules long before the mystery begins. The place is a plane of reality know as Garden Rest. Nick doesn’t know how but he chose to come there. A detective in his now former life, it is suggested that maybe it was to be with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who calls Garden Rest home.

He soon meets up with the famous author and they begin to investigate a murder. Of course how a soul in the next reality loses its existence is a part of the mystery. Doyle makes for a interesting companion and through the lens of this novel we get view into creator of the famous detective Holmes.

This is a strong and interesting novel if any thing was missing was a long discussion about what death means for the characters beyond Doyle and Fogg. A slow burn novel it takes a little while to build but once it does, it does so with visionary style. The highlight being “The Raining lands” in the second half of the novel.

Doyle After Death suggests a sequel as new characters appear towards the end but it might be interesting if Fogg traveled to other planes and met other writers in the after-life. Agatha Christie? Who knows. I am ready for it.

Another well written Shirley novel, is it a classic? Time will tell but it shows a side of Shirley we have seen before and what is more impressive than a writer stretching their wings and doing something totally different?

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