Smart and heart-piercing, Lost Book is a story of displacement, erasure, identity, mythology, and the ability of literature to simultaneously express and transcend our lives — not to mention reality ... Zapata tackles huge feelings and ideas in Lost Book, but he makes it look effortless ... There's an entire library's worth of imaginary books lurking within Lost Book, a ghostly bibliography that would have made Jose Luis Borges proud ... Lost City is wonderfully clever and erudite, but it all serves a deeper purpose. Zapata's multilayered concepts — most prominently, the theory of multiple worlds expounded by Maxwell — underscore his more immediate themes of family, diaspora, and the sway that patterns hold over our lives ... Zapata illuminates the reality-inventing power of storytelling itself.
... big-hearted ... Zapata’s book is an eloquent argument that stories let humans shape what happens to and around them into significant patterns ... Full of stories within stories, Zapata builds his layers with a light touch, so that the found documents do not impede but rather enhance the flow and add to the texture ... Politically engaged, the book is deeply critical of betrayals and injustices of all kinds and in all parts of the globe, reckoning unsparingly with humanity’s hard-wired propensity both to destroy and to self-destruct ... Remarkably, Zapata’s tone is frequently gently or even absurdly comic and his sensibility is one of great love for human beings and for life itself. This seeming contradiction operates as the central tension that animates the entire novel ... Plenty of writers have responded to our current political moment with depictions of various dystopian near-futures, but Zapata’s stroke of brilliance is to set his book in the dystopian near-past. By portraying such recent apocalypses as the Argentine financial crisis of 2001, for instance, Zapata offers the insight that the world is not merely going to end, but already has ended countless times and is perpetually ending all of the time, especially if you’re not rich, not white, not powerful (but also even if you are) ... The events Zapata recounts here deliver an indelible portrait of a jubilant and generous story-teller — one from whom readers should look eagerly forward to hearing more.
... sedate and ruminative ... imbued with a fairy-tale vibe reminiscent of John Crowley, Nicholas Christopher and Reif Larsen. Overlaying the deftly conjured 20th- and 21st-century settings and events is a sense of eternality, of archetypes and mythic patterning ... Zapata’s own evident love for and knowledge of science fiction. He is no mere dabbler or trendy opportunist. He plainly knows the field inside and out and name-checks seminal figures with precision. His knowledge of the genre’s history allows him to brilliantly fabricate and insert other imaginary titles ... The result is a realistic alternate history of the field which harks back to Kurt Vonnegut’s imagined works of Kilgore Trout ... a truly satisfying closure that blends hope and despair ... Zapata’s carefully crafted prose oscillates between matter-of-fact and lyrically poetic, a tonal range that provides a very pleasant reading experience. Also stuffed not inelegantly between the microcosmic doings are several larger incidents that limn the bloody and brutal history of the two centuries, including South American totalitarianism, European pogroms and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
Instead of using a story-within-a-story framework (think Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love), or an entangled symmetry (David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas), Zapata layers his worlds flat atop one another. The reader has to hunt for traces of communication between story lines ... To cover so much ground, Zapata often summarizes plot for pages ... When Zapata, too, favors people over events, their stories come alive ... Though Maxwell’s physics is deliberately vague, the implications are immediate and real. Through the allegory of the multiverse, Zapata reinterprets the extent and toll of exile on Earth, the gulf between universes of human experience.
Zapata’s evocation of New Orleans at this point in history is deeply lived-in, offering a vision of the city with strongly felt connections to the Caribbean ... compelling ... It’s a thought-provoking examination of stories and worlds, and one which rarely goes in the direction you’d expect. It is, curiously, a very male novel—for all that Adana is a looming presence over the entire work, she’s also the most significant female character by a long shot. And while this seems by design, the idea of creating a female writer who anticipates several decades of science fiction and then leaving her legacy in entirely male hands creates a slight cognitive dissonance. But overall, The Lost Book of Adana Moreauis a thought-provoking literary mystery, and its title character a welcome addition to the canon of fictional science fiction writers.
A quick summary does The Lost Book of Adana Moreau no justice. As intriguing as the plot may sound upfront, it can’t speak to the otherworldly beauty of Michael Zapata’s writing. Don’t even bother trying to mark all the gorgeous passages that give you goosebumps, because there wouldn’t be much left unmarked. Zapata’s lyrical style has firm roots in Gabriel García Márquez’s work, with a boldness of delivery to the tune of Jorge Luis Borges ... While most of the protagonists are male, Zapata crafts female characters who are authors, physicists and master storytellers, who are loved for their intellect and contributions to the universe rather than for their beauty or contributions to the lives of men. Zapata pulls this off in a natural way that doesn’t feel showy or even particularly outright, which is all the more admirable ... As if his captivating writing style weren’t enough, Zapata has treated us to a thrillingly mysterious storyline with a beautiful payoff. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is his debut novel, and we can only hope it is the first of many.
Zapata spins an iridescent web of grief, loss, and memory ... The connection between Saul and Maxwell, and the role Adana’s novel plays in both their lives constitute an enchanting blend of history, science, and fairy tale. Zapata’s unforgettable characters lose loved ones, countries, and even identities, but they preserve 'lost worlds' in the stories they tell and by 'reading the night sky ... A lush, spellbinding tale.
... readers will be mesmerized by the unraveling of how the protagonists’ lives interconnect. The author develops each of the characters with nuance ... The story-within-a-story structure might lose some, especially as the sections alternate through the decade. However, patient readers will be rewarded with an illuminating work on trauma and the transience of human existence. Echoes of authors from the Latin American Boom movement and traces of H.G. Wells combine to create a fascinating send up to science fiction ... A heady literary and genre-bending novel for fans of Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, and Adolfo Bioy Caseres.
There are books, though, that break all of that apart and shove you to put everything you’ve thought about reviewing a book aside and just attempt to communicate what the book has done to you. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is an absolutely stunning piece of work, and it is the best book you’ll read this year.
... stirring ... Zapata expertly jumps between the story of Maxwell ’s youth and Saul’s attempt to return his manuscript. Histories collide as Saul navigates the storm-battered city in search of Maxwell and the prophetic words of Adana become realized. Zapata expertly blends the drama of the lost manuscript with the on-the-ground chaos and tumult caused by the storm. Digging into themes of regeneration and rejuvenation, Zapata’s marriage of speculative and realist styles makes for a harrowing, immersive tale that will appeal to fans of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones.
Zapata’s debut novel is a wonderful merging of adventure with thoughtful but urgent meditations on time, history, and surviving tragedy. The characters are richly drawn, and the prose is striking ... A luminous novel about the deep value of telling stories.