cover image Lament for the Afterlife

Lament for the Afterlife

Lisa L. Hannett. ChiZine (Diamond, U.S. dist.; PGC/Raincoast, Canadian dist.), $16.99 trade paper (344p) ISBN 978-1-77148-347-6

Hannett creates an indisputably distinctive setting for her debut novel, a bleak dystopia where aliens ("Greys") wage unceasing war. As a result, humanity has undergone a forced literary mutation where "wordwinds" make manifest an individual's innermost secrets: "Words had beetled across his scalp, illegible scurryings that kept his thick hair in constant motion." In Hannett's world, the enemy is never glimpsed, soldiers create weapons from their thoughts%E2%80%94"Scattershot bottled from lunatic nightmares. Firebombs of distilled hatred"%E2%80%94and the landscape is overrun with "months of accumulated dust and words and dirt." As an act of literary worldbuilding, the book is a triumph, evoking the unclassifiable oddness of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic and Jeff VanderMeer's Area X trilogy. As a sustained novel, however, it can be exasperating: myriad characters flit about without impact, and the episodic nature of the presentation often bewilders. Hannett's talent is undeniable, her prose is achingly beautiful, and her analysis of war's inevitable toil is thorough and rich. Her novel is a demanding read, but it rewards an attentive reader with an appreciation for the weird. (Sept.)