RaveZYZZYVAAn uncharitable reader could easily fill up all the black and blank space in this book with dismissals. But the author’s formal trickery can’t be written off as merely evasive, pretentious, or coy. Setting aside the reader’s perfectly valid expectations of entertainment and pleasure, theMystery.doc is some sort of masterpiece—obscure or vulnerable by jagged turns, but in every moment energized by a self-assured sense of purpose: the novel knows, even if you are, for a long time, completely in the dark ... Like City of God, theMystery.doc sets itself up as a kind of writers’ sketchbook, filled with iterative entries on physics, alter-egos, philosophy, film, and plans for the composition of the very book in your hands. And like Doctorow, McIntosh never strays far from metaphysical concerns; both authors set off in search of the divine ... Two of the most compelling and thoroughly developed narratives in the novel address the loss of family...Juxtaposed against so much high-concept invention and formal strangeness, there’s a clarity to this devastation. These voices dignify personal love and pain, and they suggest at least one source of meaning, even as the novel struggles against the impenetrable mystery, holy or empty, at the center of it all.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThat David Szalay’s latest novel, which was shortlisted this year for the Booker Prize, manages to pull off even half of what it sets before the reader in a schema like this is remarkable. In fact, the Budapest-based British author manages much more, and with far greater feeling than such a taxonomical approach might threaten ... The novel’s most significant achievement is one of mimesis. Through these leaps into the minds of progressively older protagonists, Szalay succeeds not simply in describing but enacting the dreadful rubbernecking feeling of a life rushing past ... The author limits the scope of his novel to a survey of traditional, individualistic masculine norms, and to examining the associated myths of sexual conquest, professional esteem, and personal legacy.