Plot: Denis's crackling, clever, and intricately plotted novel unfolds at almost breakneck speed. Readers will be immediately engaged by the book’s inventive, absurdist premise and far-reaching examinations of life, death, and the pitfalls of being human.
Prose/Style: Denis's text is compulsively readable and clear, though at times stiff and simplistic in delivery.
Originality: Denis's novel is refreshingly original and well-developed. Though there are elements that lend themselves to sci-fi, the novel avoids genre trappings, instead striking a charmingly esoteric and idiosyncratic note all its own.
Character Development: Inconsistent character development is a minor hinderance in an otherwise captivating and memorable novel. AJ, Mighty-11, and Lila are standout, lively, and engaging characters that are worthy of a cast of characters that pull equal weight.
Date Submitted: April 28, 2020
The book is a riot of philosophical debates and surreal details. Characters use the online Overall Happiness scale created by anonymous supergeek Cornelis; the chat site GreatImmortality.org, “where you go and communicate with any book hero or any dead, but important and famous person”; and MinorImmortality.org, “where common people are stored after death.” During one such chat, Albert Einstein mentions that he’s been spending a lot of time with Sabina from Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. One scene takes place at a scientific conference, another at a town meeting in the world of the dead.
The question of whether Alma-Jane will survive is just the jumping-off point for the declaration of a war against death, discussions about the role of fear and bravery in survival and how to define happiness, and revelations of unforeseen connections among the characters. The prose can sometimes be a bit stiff, many characters have similar voices, and the children are implausibly precocious. Nonetheless, this novel is clever, witty, inventive, and full of heart. Readers who love solving puzzles and eavesdropping on existential ponderings will eat it up.
Takeaway: This innovative and witty novel will delight logophiles and puzzle-solvers.
Great for fans of Tom Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume, Robin Sloan, Jasper Fforde.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A-
"Underneath Ms. Denis's writing you always find meanings and at some point if not happiness, peace of mind, despite of pain and sadness. Ms. Denis writes about feelings and ideas that seem contradictory but running deep into them she'll bring you to the core of life where complexity, sensitivity and intelligence bring you to your humanity." ---Rachèle Bevilacqua, editor-in-chief, Les Éditions du Portrait