Afterlands, by Canadian author, Steven Heighton.
It is definitely the best book I have read so far this year, and I cannot imagine another one being better for me in 2009.
It is now up there in my opinion with the greats, like Alias Grace, and As The Crow Flies, and Libra, and stuff like that.
You know, when you are as multi-talented as I am […ahem…] there are times when it seems you can do anything. I can discuss junk as good as the other dude, I can sing better than this guy, I can play drums better than that guy, I can still beat Joe down the hall at tennis, and I can write…… pretty good.
But then you read a book like Afterlands.
And you realize stuff.
It is very humbling, but in a good way.
I very quickly and profoundly realize that even if my writing talents were to multiply exponentially over the next ten or twenty years, I would still never be able to write anything a hundredth as good as this guy can.
← This Steven Heighton character!
The novel, God, I don't even know where to start, rather than delineate it in my own words I am going to direct you to a good synopsis of it → HERE.
In this brief blog I just want to take the time to say that in my opinion, Afterlands is almost a dual novel.
After the Arctic portion of it, the author follows the protagonist Roland Kruger into Mexico, and to further adventures so epic in scope that, as I say, it is almost like reading a second novel. Yet all remains so intertwined [woven], so intricately connected to the themes of displacement and alienation, peril and rescue. Love and loss.
Kruger emerges a hero, but not a super-hero.
There is not one aspect of this novel that is flippant. Nothing is under or over cooked. And let's face it, both things can give one indigestion.
It is a thriller, but not a potboiler. Because it is based on actual events, it could be considered historical fiction, yet does not have the feel, in any typical sense, of the genre.
The perfect blend of wild invention and bone-numbing reality.
The white bird, an albino vulture, slouches in a niche in the canyon wall, like statuary in a satanic chapel. Its bald gory head is half turned away, as if feigning disinvolvement or anonymity. [p.320]
Come on now!
That is gorgeous, perfect, writing. And the whole entire book is that good.
It’s a perfect ten of a book and had me riveted from start to finish.
I encourage you one and all to trust me just this once. Afterlands cannot disappoint you.
I happen to have the inside scoop that Steven Heighton is busy at work. Even as I write this, he is squirreled away on an island writing his next novel. In the meantime, I have already picked up his former book, The Shadow Boxer.
And I am in the process of reading his poetry.
Yes, it is humbling to read stuff that is this good. And it is dizzyingly exciting.
Do not be discouraged that you will never write as good as Steven Heighton.
Neither will I.
Neither will anyone.