This book is showily postmodern, full of odd typographical elements, altered realities and intertextual jokes. Everything that happens is not just a plot point but a reference to that kind of plot point in other narratives. The psychology of the characters is deliberately stylised and artificial; the world they live in is supposed to be a comic-book universe with little plausibility. Even the sloppiness of the plot can be seen as an extended joke about the theme of entropy that runs through the book, and a play on Cupid’s Engine , the novel as a perfect, completely orderly machine. All this may seem convoluted, but Hall’s remarkably charming voice carries him past plot tangles that would have felled a less confident author, and the story develops in genuinely startling and ingenious directions ... consistently fun and often impressive. I suspect a reader’s experience of it will largely depend on their appetite for its genre.
I read Maxwell’s Demon in proof in 2019, publication was delayed because of the pandemic, and it is now here. I re-read it in the finished copy and it was more than worth the wait, and rewarded being read twice. I found even more traps, foreboding fore-shadowings, dialogue that only reveals its true importance in retrospect, sly references and clever sleights of hand. It is also – ingeniously – about a long-awaited difficult second novel ... It moves at an exhilarating lick, as befits its pop culture propensities, but with highbrow sensibilities, its concerns including the Kabbalah, whether the world is made of words, the origins of the alphabet, the mythopoetic nature of the hero’s journey and what angels look like ... But the genius of the book is that despite it seeming like an elegant orrery, all these wheels within wheels are a carapace, a psychic armour against a grief (and it’s not the grief you were expecting). Beneath this truly beautiful astrolabe is a beating human heart.
TV and video game writer Hall’s mind-bending novel chases its protagonist at full speed through a labyrinth of philosophical conundrums ... The complex typography presents a challenge (be prepared to read sideways and upside down), but for the right reader, the author’s plethora of ideas and proliferating rabbit holes provides endless delights. Fans of Mark Danielewski will love this heady postmodern thriller.