“I want today to give up being so smugly sure about what tomorrow won’t need.”– Elizabeth Knox, The Absolute Book
Is it weird that I’m still working the plot out after finishing the book? Elizabeth Knox’s newest novel is a full-on surprising ride to say the least. A story that cannot be told by the conventional methods of retelling. I don’t even know how to start describing it. The Absolute Book lives up to its name, it’s about a lot of things, about books and art and creativity and all the fantasy/ crime elements of a novel. Unfortunately, for me, it fell into the same category as Jerusalem by Alan Moore, where it tries to be too many things at the same time and it completely lost me as a reader. This book is also so big, it took me about two weeks to finish it haha.
Let’s start with the parts that I appreciate about this novel : the beautiful cover, the concepts and the gorgeous prose. Evidently the author has some great ideas: Angels overrunning Hell, and demons trying to defend their language and fight back the invasion ? LOVE IT. Elizabeth Knox is one of hell of an author, she knows how to create beautiful sentences and make them pretty and funny. Almost similar to the humour of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There are certain passages that I would totally frame it in my apartment. However, the worldbuilding is subtle but flawed in a way that it didn’t allow me to connect with the characters and their surroundings. Everything seems so distant, nothing is rooted.
The genius is there for sure but I’m not going to lie, the author lost me at a lot of points. I always felt like a great book should be able to transcend its message onto the reader and depending on what kind of reader too. This book was not for me in that sense. I need fewer plots, more focusing on the characters and a clear transition. If you throw me a protagonist possessing by a demon and then talks about a talking grand-ma kiwi, I would just be hell confused.
I can definitely see this book for people who enjoy a good challenge, and who are the kind of people who like to re-read it to catch all of its subtleties. For avid readers of fantasy genre bending!
Big thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy to review!