So this story is a little bit meta–you might have picked up on that already.
There is so much going on in this story that it’s easy to get lost. Whether it’s the layers of improbabilities of the characters adventures or the philosophical thought processes of the protagonist, this story needs to be reread a few times before anything starts to seem solid.
More then that, it’s about a storyteller, which I have a vested interest in. This storyteller, a character who shares the name of the author, is a plausible fabulist. Placed in an imaginary world, this writer strives to think of possible worlds other than his own that still adhere to the rules and cosmic laws of his own.
The world he imagines just so happens to be much like ours.
Not only does Rosenbaum have a character with the same name as the protagonist of the story but that character is also a writer and is working on a “shadow history”. But the story itself is a shadow history of our world because it has zeppelins and Wisdom Ants and so many other things that are not in our world and yet it is still a world much like our own.
It starts off simple, with little details to tell the reader that this is not a world quite like ours. Then as the story progresses, the details become more and more fantastical. I love this narrative element because it mimics the way a writer creates a world. Most start with something that is very familiar and add little things that make it there own. And they keep adding. And adding until they have something new.
It’s almost as if the story itself is an insight into how stories are constructed while also being a story literally about how stories are constructed. It circles back on itself and things are changed without much lead in. It gets to the point where you forget that the protagonist is a storyteller and instead see him as an adventurer. The reader gets lost in the story as it develops and becomes less aware that it is, in fact, a story–as most do. The trick is that the story starts by reminding the reader about stories, even making reference to stories within the our world.
It’s one of those stories that pays rereading because there are so many things at the start that get forgotten by the end. If you get through it and go back to those first couple pages, you’ll see that the story has a very different atmosphere to start than it does at the end.
It’s also a story that I feel is trying to do a very specific thing which can alienate some people from enjoying it. If you want something fun and straightforward to read then move along, this is not the story you’re looking for. But if the deconstruction of storytelling–in a fun and action-adventure style–is something that interests you then this could be an enjoyable read.