Another read from the Kirkus Best of 2013, I finished the audiobook of Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis. And I am…conflicted.
But more on that in a moment.
The book opens with Bayliss, loner angel who spends his time on Earth in a slightly future, slightly dystopic version, watching Gabriel die in slow motion in the pleroma (think like heaven but more grey). And he has been tasked to find it a replacement-someone weak-willed who won’t rock the boat. So he tries to kill drug abuser Martin, but his sister, Molly, jumps in the path of the tram and dies herself.
And because she’s all fiery and strong-willed, she of course can’t sit still when there are mysteries afoot. Because someone killed Gabriel. Something is up with the angels of the pleroma. There are weird inconsistencies growing in the ground. Metatron, “The Voice of God,” is more than he seems. Dames give strokes to other dames. A bloke put the bum’s rush on a priest. Mysteries and riddles and secrets, oh my.
It’s all told through a thick noir film because Bayliss is permanently wrapped up in the good old days when all you need was a skirt, a pill, and a place to keep your nose outta the rain. But because Molly’s his responsibility, he gets dragged in as well.
This book takes its own cosmology and goes through the roof. Angels are not typical humans with wings, but the seraphim have four faces while the cherubhim have faces of fire. Dominions are just lightning and black ooze while thrones are the celestial cops. And everyone is bound by the M-O-C (the mantle of ontological consistency) that says that physics are physics and nobody can break the rules of the universe.
And at first I wasn’t into the story. It seemed to drag a little bit and there’s quite a bit of exposition. I just didn’t see what had everybody raving. You keep reliving Molly’s life, and she keeps wanting to take car of her brother and visit an ex-girlfriend. Plus, she gets angry and often forgets to ask all the questions or think things through before rushing in. Granted, she keeps getting attacked by forces she doesn’t understand, but you think she’d be a bit more on the ball. But about halfway in, I got completely sucked in, and I couldn’t wait to figure out what happens next.
And then all the things happen and (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) Bayliss turns out to be the most untrustworthy of characters. Which is problematic for the reader, because he narrates every other chapter from a first person perspective. So a lot of the story has been a lie or a half truth, and it forces you to reconsider everything that you’ve learned because he’s been the principal source of information for the entire story. And so you have to take this sudden new information right near the climax and roll with it.
And I can see why a lot of people would have problems with this book. The language can be science-y and dense at times. Unreliable narrators can be infuriating, because it breaks the reader’s trust along with the character’s. Not every reader is very forgiving, and I can’t blame them. But, because every book list has ruined the unreliable narrator plot point, hinting or outright saying it, I knew what I was getting into. And even though parts of the story may have been bullshit due to the compulsive lying of Bayliss, it’s still a fun read. The ending is a little…odd. And it definitely feels more drawn out than is strictly necessary, but overall, this is a great entry into urban fantasy.
JMF Rating: 8/10
‘Til next time,