cover image Lost Empress

Lost Empress

Sergio de la Pava. Pantheon, $28.95 (640p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4722-0

In his extraordinary new novel, de la Pava (A Naked Singularity) weaves together several story lines centered around Paterson, N.J. Nina Gill is a preternaturally gifted football strategist. She stands to inherit the Dallas Cowboys, but instead ends up with the family’s far less desirable Indoor Football League franchise, the Paterson Pork. However, an NFL lockout gives Nina the opportunity to build an absurd alternative for showcasing the sport she loves. A few miles from Paterson, Nuno DeAngeles sits imprisoned in Rikers Island. An out-of-place intellectual, Nuno is able to manipulate his lawyer and eventually lands in the somewhat cushier Bellevue Hospital while he conspires with his fellow inmate Solomon to commit a mysterious crime. Between these two worlds, de la Pava takes readers into the lives of ordinary Patersonians who work as EMTs, 911 operators, and a pig-suit-wearing mascot. Like his previous work, de la Pava’s novel employs a variety of narrative forms, including legal briefs, sermons, phone transcripts, and the text of a prison handbook. De la Pava is a maximalist worldbuilder, and the incredible multiverse he constructs in this book establishes him as one of the most fearsomely talented American novelists working today. (May)