Synopsis: A murder-mystery set in the near future, told by two protagonists. The murder victim is an angel. One of the protagonists speaks entirely in 40’s Noir patter, and is also an angel. The existence of angels is not well known.
Book Review: I don’t know where to begin on this review. The narrative style is amazing. If you love over-the-top-Noir like I do you will get a huge kick out of this. There are some beautifully crafted sentences. If you don’t smile while reading Bayliss’s POV chapters you may have misplaced your soul.
The plot is good, and manages to avoid several common tropes which I don’t want to get into for risk of spoilers. Let it be said that if you groan and /facepalm when running into received-wisdom Deathist tropes in standard fiction, you will be pleasantly surprised by their avoidance here. There is a strong thread of transhumanism throughout.
On the minuses, the settings/sense-of-place was sadly lacking. And while it starts strong and ends strong, it drags a bit in the middle. Finally, the climax is a bit lacking in catharsis.
Also – have Wikipedia open nearby while you’re reading. It’s not necessary, but it did increase my enjoyment of the book. It is quite obvious that the author works at Los Alamos. I, for one, love learning while I’m reading. :) You will be entertained and challenged at once!
All in all, a good read. Recommended.
Book Club Review: There was a fair bit to talk about in this. It had some flaws to offset its successes, which is always a plus. It gives people something to disagree about. Several of our members thought the Noir patter was over-the-top and should have been dialed down. There was also a strong bit of disagreement over whether the author “cheated” near the end, which was exciting.
Unfortunately there was no theological debate to get into, because the angels in SMTN are not religious entities. They are extremely-powerful, trans-dimensional, immortal and semi-incomprehensible beings. Their physical descriptions are informed by biblical accounts, and there’s theological influences on the narration, but ultimately there are basically zero ties to religion as we know it. This isn’t a bad thing– Tregillis simply wasn’t writing a religious story. That would have been a very different book. But don’t go into it expecting this to spark theological conversation.
There are, however, discussions to be had about the choices made by both the angels and the humans at the end. Themes of responsibility vs servitude. The book also comes down on the practical side of the power-vs-morality struggle, which is fortunate for the humans in the end, but feels like it was left unexplored. It’s a bit too pat that the human heroine managed to find such an optimal solution that was near perfect in every regard. Maybe that’s just my dislike of happy endings. At any rate, I look forward to a sequel that reveals all the choices made at the end where actually disastrous. ;)
Yes, also Recommended.