Nine Planets

Greg Byrne. Dragonwell (publishing.dragonwell.org), $16.95 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-940076-17-1
Byrne’s allegorical debut boasts a premise that’s simultaneously dark and playful, lovely synesthetic imagery, and world-building that jumps delightfully between moments of fairy tale fantasy and high-tech dystopia. Peter Blackwell awakens from a coma into a cursed world where suicidal despair is common, mitigated only by the anticipation of perfect gifts that appear miraculously in everyone’s homes one day each year. Though Peter’s memory for new material is perfect, he retains only eight simple images from his pre-coma days, plus a cryptic ninth one behind which is locked a tremendous secret. That secret is sought by both the agents of the gift-giving Brotherhood and the Cabal that wants humankind to self-destruct, and both are desperate to extract it before a comet collides with Earth. Byrne barrels toward the climax of a centuries-long battle between misery and hope at an intense but not overly frenzied pace. Strong attention to the timing of revelations makes the conclusion inevitable but not obvious, allowing this riff on one of the world’s oldest stories to stay strong all the way to the end. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/20/2014
Genre: Fiction
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