cover image Mr. Eternity

Mr. Eternity

Aaron Thier. Bloomsbury, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63286-093-4

In Key West, two budding documentarians find a willing subject in the “ancient mariner” Daniel Defoe, who claims to be 560 years old, in Thier’s second novel (after The Ghost Apple). Not only is Defoe telling the truth about his longevity, his life has only just begun. We flash back to 16th-century Granada, where Defoe is a conquistador searching for the fabled El Dorado, then forward into our future (approximately 2216) and Defoe’s quest for his long-lost love Anna Gloria among the ruins of America. In 1750, he is a guest on a plantation in the Bahamas with his faithful companion Quaco (who plays Sancho Panza to the adventurer Defoe’s Quixote), and in the year 2500 he is advisor to the ruler of the Mississippi States; each story line follows a different narrator and a different style, but Defoe himself is constant, voyaging through the echelons of power, sometimes a servant, occasionally a pirate, always a raconteur. Defoe regales his documentarians with recollections of Christopher Columbus; in the future, he recalls a 20th century long forgotten. Thier uses his deathless protagonist to chart the rise and fall of the American empire, and also those certainties—love, trade—that afflict every age. The novel can be jarring in its narrative jumps, but the moral imagination behind Defoe’s adventures rivals that of his namesake, begging comparison to the best literature has to offer. Agent: Cynthia Cannell, Cynthia Cannell Literary Agency. (Aug.)