The New Zealand author of The Vintner's Luck returns with an epic fantasy about a hunt for an ancient scroll box that has survived multiple fires throughout history—including at the library of Taryn Cornick's grandparents. Meanwhile, the murder of Cornick's sister years earlier resurfaces when a policeman, Jacob Berger, contacts her about the cold case. A shadowy young man named Shift appears, forcing Cornick and Berger toward a reckoning felt in more than one world.
I felt that my position in relation to the book’s capacious intellect and imagination and moral purpose was a vertiginous one. It was thrilling and frightening, reading this book ... publishers...should be leaping at the chance to publish something this important, this beautiful, and this much fun ... each time I thought the book was done surprising me, Knox flexed her own golden gauntlet and opened another gate and flung me through it. At the end, I was shaken and grateful for the worlds I’d seen ... When I was finished with The Absolute Book I wanted everyone I knew to read it so I could discuss it with them ... [a] majestic, brain-bending novel[.]
The Absolute Book is a threaded needle embroidering itself into being ... It’s also as much a shape-changer as Shift, moving from genre to genre with dizzying grace ... Reading the book is like holding folds of shot silk to the light, finding green flash in something that looks purple, and appreciating how thoughtfully the warp and weft embrace each other. But when I finished it, I was left wondering whether it had cohered; it felt as if I’d been admiring all the cogs and gears animating a fine watch while uncertain about whether or not it kept time. Hasty resolutions and an odd departure of an epilogue somewhat unbalance the whole. But I’m in awe of it, ultimately, its precision and care, and its wry, understated humor.
... worth the wait ... accomplished ... The prose of The Absolute Book is solid and direct, neither succumbing to flashiness nor aspiring to poetry. It keeps us grounded in Knox’s human concerns even as the narrative races us past the descending angels and the rising demons, through the roots of Yggdrasil and under the stars of another sky ... it’s easy to imagine that Knox intends 'absolute' in its sense of 'all-encompassing,' because it seems as if she’s trying to squeeze every genre of fiction between two covers. At various points, The Absolute Book resembles a book about books, a psychological crime novel, a romance, a portal fantasy, a technothriller, a historical fantasy, and an allegory ... This surfeit of stories, this melding of modes and mixing of genres, is The Absolute Book’s greatest strength, but also the source of its occasional frustrations. There’s so much to observe and to consider and to enjoy, yet Knox lets vital characters languish offstage for hundreds of pages and, more importantly, abandons intriguing themes ... unwieldy and untidy; like the mercurial Shift, it forever changes form and refuses to be pinned down. It’s flawed and exuberant and generous and original; the readers of this book may have some reservations, but they will have few regrets.