Book Review: Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Date of Publication: December 3, 2013
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars – “Mind-bendingly original and inventive ideas in this book’s story and world; Tregillis’ writing leaves me in awe, especially the crime noir fiction-inspired voice of the narrator”
Ian Tregillis has impressed me in the past with his books in the Milkweed Triptych, which was why I got excited when I discovered that he was working on a new novel about angels. And not just about any angels; Something More Than Night is a hard-boiled noir detective story with the following tagline: “a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler-inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven” and features fallen angels, metaphysics, and a bizarre future. If that description didn’t pique your interest or at least make you do a double-take, seriously, check your pulse!
The story opens with a murder. The Archangel Gabriel is dead, his celestial remains falling to earth in a glorious light show in the starry sky, turning to snow as they drift into the mortal realm of the oblivious humans. No one notices the Seraphim’s passing but Bayliss, a fallen angel who has made Earth his home for the last few hundred years. His mission to find a mortal to take Gabriel’s place is botched, however, when he accidentally knocks a hapless young woman under a street tram, causing her death and subsequent ascension to the ranks of the angelic Choir.
Now not only does poor Molly need to come to terms with being dead, she also has to learn all that it means to be an angel – not to mention figure out why her predecessor was killed. But Gabriel’s death turns out to be no ordinary murder. Molly’s investigations with Bayliss lead her to uncover a huge secret that the Archangel had been keeping before he died, involving Jericho’s Trumpet and an eons-old conspiracy that can alter the fate of the cosmos.
I’ve only read the first two books in the Milkweed Triptych (with the third book on my list of must-buys, I assure you) but already Tregillis has cemented himself in my mind as a talented teller of stories and builder of worlds. I have found that his work is hard to pin down in terms of categorizing them; there really is no easy way to describe the unique way he mixes elements of speculative fiction with other genres. I am pleased to find is the same way with Something More Than Night, with its complex and often mind-bending plot and setting.
When it comes to the world he has created in this book, I can only boggle in amazement. There is the earthly one, which gradually makes itself apparent to the reader that we are in a different time, a future in which the earth has clearly seen better days. But then there is also the “heavenly” world called the Pleroma, which is not all clouds and Pearly Gates, but instead something that is both more mundane and extraordinary at the same time. Tregillis has managed to completely floor me with his descriptions of Magisteria (what his angels call home) made of memories and jumbled senses, transforming the abstract into words and physics that I think may take a bit of patience to wrap your head around, but it’s worth it in the end. I am still just so in awe.
I also adore Ian Tregillis’ writing style, which I’ve always figured was well suited for darker, more evocative stories, and as such I thought it was perfect for a book like this. Plus, I was just wowed by Bayliss’ voice and mannerisms, which are straight out of a crime noir novel of the 30s or 40s. I think that was the most impressive of all, and it’s obvious that great lengths were taken to make his character sound true to that particular era and genre. Admittedly, this makes Bayliss hard to understand at times, but I didn’t mind slowing down to savor each and every one of his affectations or lines of dialogue.
Really, the only thing I felt was a bit off was the “twist”. I like it when unexpected things happen in a book, but it’s an entirely different matter when everything I thought I knew or was led to believe gets turned around on its head, and that took a little something away from me. Still, it’s such a minor complaint seeing as how it was part and parcel of the story, and ultimately everything in the book came together so well. When it comes down to it, I’m pretty confident Something More Than Night will be unlike any book you’ve ever read. As always, Ian Tregillis blows me away with his talent and inventive ideas. For something totally original and different, check out this book and author.
4.5 of 5 stars
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.