Ian Tregillis’s latest novel, Something More Than Night, is something more than just a novel in that it contains a truly fantastical blend of ideas and genres. Now, I love a good mish-mash and this book really executes this with panache.
Conceptualize, if you will, a dystopian future, whose framework is built upon the theology of Thomas Aquinas. Now, put on a layer of drywall-like plot based on The Maltese Falcon or something Raymond Chandler-esque. Then spackle over it with a veneer of legitimate particle physics theory (Tregillis is employed as a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory). And you have an idea of the story.
Amazingly, the book manages to pull these concepts together with coherence, while providing enough background information for the story to be understood and enjoyed.
I really appreciated the author’s ability to pique my interest in the scientific topics to the extent that I dusted off my quantum mechanics textbook for a quick look, downloaded Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica from Project Gutenberg for reference, and added a pack of hard-boiled detective novels to my reading list. A truly good read like this one is not only enjoyable but spawns a cascade of future prospects.
Something More Than Night opens with the murder of the archangel Gabriel (“Gabby” to his friends), and a low rank-and-file member of the heavenly choir named Bayliss is on the case. While the story line sounds a bit Dashiell Hammett, Bayliss himself is more of a wise-cracking Philip Marlowe type than a straight-laced Sam Spade.
In fact, Tregillis is such a master of the sardonic simile that I’m tempted to compile a list for future reference. Bayliss must recruit a human replacement for Gabby and ends up with a red-headed “broad” Molly, and grouses that “I knew that dame was trouble the minute I saw her.” Molly is none too fond of Bayliss either, and she may have the right of it as Bayliss has to promote her to angel status by pushing her under a tram.
Grudgingly, they work together to get to the bottom of which heavenly denizen killed Gabriel and why. Along the way they meet up with thuggish cherubim and crooked priests selling indulgences. They also learn how the master of ceremonies, referred to as METATRON, used the angels to create the Mantle of Ontological Consistency to hold the universe as we know it together.
With the combination of a fascinating story, superior wit, and a traditional hard-boiled detective fiction plot swerve at the ending, Something More Than Night makes for an all-around great read.Buy This [subscribe2]