Review: Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis
Something More than Night was published December 2013 and Tor provided me with a copy to review.
The flap copy starts off like so:
Ian Tregillis’s Something More Than Night is a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven. It’s a noir detective story starring fallen angels, the heavenly choir, nightclub stigmatics, a priest with a dirty secret, a femme fatale, and the Voice of God.
And that was more than enough to pique my interest, but 1 page in and it’s clear that the setting is a near future earth in the throes of a slow apocalypse with climate and technology deteriorating. It’s also clear that I’m going to enjoy the language of the book. Bayliss, the first of 2 narrators, is ripped straight out of the pages of Raymond Chandler. I actually flipped through my Library of America Volume on Chandler’s early stories for comparison. In addition to strolling through the narrative with a lit cigarette and an inability to avoid slang, Bayliss has a casual knowledge of building blocks of reality. His metaphors and similes are just as likely to contain entropy and exotic matter as they are to contain booze and jazz.
The second narrator introduced is a bit more down to earth. Molly was human before she died and thus views the realm of angels she’s thrust into much as the reader might. She’s given very little information but does a spectacular job pulling it all together. Her initial goals are small and straight forward. Reconnect with her ex-girlfriendand help her brother get his life together. As she figures out where she fits in the puzzle, she’s able to expand her altruistic intentions.
Molly’s story is the cross between a super hero origin story, a literary character study and a healthy dose of psychological horror. Watching her come to grips with everything while attempting to remain sane is dramatically juxtaposed against Bayliss. All of his screws are loose and he’s more than content to fall to pieces as long as he can do it with a stiff drink in one hand and a smoke in the other.
Between these two views mysteries unfold, not the least of which is what possessed Tregillis to tell the story this way. Alternate Cosmology is a large but fun step away from the Alternate History of his previous trilogy (which I haven’t read, but have heard good things.) I’m a Christian with a physics degree that is fascinated by a good mystery. I don’t think Tregillis could have found a better target for this novel. I enjoyed the novel line by line, but when ALL the stylistic choices started falling into place and making sense I fell in love with it.
Science fiction readers that like their fiction heavy on the science will love this but take the longest to warm up to it. Readers that can revel in the play of language will get sucked in even if they don’t fully appreciate quantum mechanics and neutrinos. There really is a lot to love here.