A smart story of love and loss with a clever mix of narrative techniques, Empty Set may be an antidote to the current climate of despair ... the characters are rich and well developed, the mood is contagious, and the plot is simple yet intriguingly complex ... The ending shouldn’t come as a surprise, but, to Gerber Bicecci’s credit, it does. Suspicious of narrative at the beginning of the story, hiding behind her puzzles and her diagrams, Verónica gradually finds a place within it, a way forward that offers readers an enticing model for how to exist in a fragmented world of ever-multiplying identities.
Although Empty Set is at times a playful, often funny work, the book becomes increasingly concerned with Veronica’s efforts to uncover her ancestral legacy, which seemingly disappeared along with her mother ... Interspersed between short chapters Gerber Bicecci reproduces the charts, graphs, and diagrams that [protagonist] Verónica relies on to find order and meaning in her complicated, fantastical world.
Mexican author Verónica Gerber Bicecci’s first novel is like a Rubik’s Cube in the best possible way: there may be an elegant solution, but this puzzle of a story doesn’t make it easy to find. The head-scratching challenge of deciphering the messages and meanings hidden in the combination of Gerber Bicecci’s spare words and enigmatic diagrams is one of the most appealing aspects of this unusual narrative ... As with any good work of experimental fiction that defies conventional expectations, however, there are no definitive answers here and no elegant solutions.
Veronica Gerber Bicecci’s debut novel, second book and her first translated into English, Empty Set (Conjunto vacío), has multiple dualities—the verbal and the visual, the analytic and the emotional, autobiography and fiction—that aspire to convey ineffable sums greater than their constituent parts ... Empty Set invites its readers to both approach its imagery empathically and simultaneously view it with critical perspective. Fans of elliptical experimental fiction will welcome the challenge.
Part family history, part lost love story, and mostly memoirish novel, Verónica Gerber Bicecci’s experiment with fragmented narrative augmented by illustration is not entirely successful but is quite engaging in many ways ... Bicecci’s writing can be captivating and her aperçus striking if a bit simple: 'We’re all waiting for what we can’t see to finally appear.' The diagrams, often Venn, and other illustrations serve to underscore her points. But some of the risks she takes, such as writing sections in nonsense syllables or pursuing words down definitional rabbit holes, may leave the reader more frustrated than delighted.
Originally written in Spanish, Empty Set... is a wonderfully beguiling novel that demonstrates the beautiful similarities between language and math ... Empty Set is also brimming with observations that verge on existential philosophy ... it sets a new standard for excellence in experimental fiction.
The novel moves in a circular fashion, revolving around certain fixations, themes, concepts: dendrochronology, the study of tree rings; astronomy and telescopes; geometric shapes. But these strange, seemingly unconnected other obsessions are unified by the ways in which the narrator takes and warps them into variously extra-linguistic methods of meaning-making. Always there is an emphasis on language and what it can and cannot accomplish ... The narrator’s ruminating is melancholic, as she must continually return to language to express her thoughts, despite the fact that it seems to repeatedly show itself as inadequate ... Pushing her illustrations to describe difficult things calls to mind how much else they actually evoke: whorls, voids, eclipses. Every word on the page is a Venn diagram: the meaning might be found in the space between what is and isn’t written.
Bicecci’s debut novel, Empty Set, is full of secrets...some of which remain hidden after the final page. It’s a fascinating puzzle of a book that I can’t stop thinking about—an experimental mix of prose, diagrams and literary artifacts that is also, somehow, breathlessly plotted.
Bicecci’s experimental novel takes a unique approach to topics like debilitating loneliness, political repression, and epistemological crises ...The graphics may strike readers as more gimmicky than revelatory, but nonetheless Bicecci has created a charming, elliptical novel.
Set in Mexico and Argentina, Bicecci's debut novel concerns itself with time, disappearance, Venn diagrams, and the circularity of the universe ... Within the deliberately fractured text, themes echo and time folds and unfolds. A spare, artfully constructed meditation on loss, both personal and national.