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Jack O'Connell
"The Resurrectionist" (nv)

© 2008, Algonquin Books
--/ fourth place f novel
--/ idea award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award

Themes of redemption and forgiveness glow throughout the fabric of this essentially noir narrative, melding together two wildly separate storylines - one half of this novel can be enjoyed as a dark paranormal medical thriller (channeling the best of Dean R. Koontz or Robin Cook), and the other half is a rich, colorful trip down Ray Bradbury lane (or more recently, Katherine Dunn's surreal world of "Geek Love"): following a group of sideshow freaks on their way across darkly-shaded land to find their true selves - the lyrical, sad tone enriches the visions of the grotesque and finds a way to the reader's heart, to the point that this "Limbo" part of the story can be considered a masterpiece of "New Weird" in its own right.

Not all is seamless in this book (this is partly why it reads like a wildly swerving motorbike ride). Some parts of the novel seem jumbled together like jigsaw puzzle pieces that do not quite fit, but are forced in anyway. For example, the ending contains some deep allusions and metaphors that ask to be expanded upon, and the final pages come way too quickly - one is left with half-substantiated emotions and unsatisfied longings, which might even be termed as sheer "confusion"... but, boy, does this novel reads like melancholy Bradbury sometimes! Some critics say that The Resurrectionist "transcends reality and redefines noir"; I would not go that far, but I have to admit that I was entirely charmed by the protagonist's story and lovable freaks' encounters with ruthless people and cruel landscapes... The book leaves a solid bittersweet aftertaste, prompting long reflection on themes of identity, grace and redemption - a lingering and haunting effect.

"Part classic noir thriller, part mind-bending fantasy, The Resurrectionist is a wild ride into a territory where nothing is as it appears. It is the story of Sweeney, a druggist by trade, and his son, Danny, the victim of an accident that has left him in a persistent coma. Hoping for a miracle, they have come to the forbidding, fortresslike Peck Clinic, whose doctors claim to have “resurrected” other patients who were lost in the void. What Sweeney comes to realize, however, is that the real cure for his son’s condition may lie in Limbo, a fantasy comic book world into which his son had been drawn at the time of his accident. Plunged into the intrigue that envelops the clinic, Sweeney’s search for answers leads to sinister back alleys, brutal dead ends, and terrifying corners of darkness and mystery."

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