When a nearby mental hospital releases its patients to run amok in a street preacher's neighborhood, his trusted if bedraggled flock turns expectantly to him to find out what’s going on. The preacher decides he must confront the forces that threaten his congregation—including the peculiar followers of a religious cult, the mysterious men and women dressed all in red seen fleetingly amid the bedlam, and an enigmatic smoking figure who seems to know what’s going to happen just before it does.
I was baffled, dazzled, angered and awed. In between bouts of hating it, I adored it ... a self-indulgent muddle; it’s a modern-day classic ... action gushes off the page ... Moxon is a literary demon, constantly exploiting and thwarting our need for coherence and logic. He grabs other stories and motifs like he’s charging through a three-hour sale at Filene’s Basement ... All these elements — past and present, real and surreal, serious and absurd — are stacked like some Olympic version of literary Jenga. Admittedly, sometimes it feels like reading a novel by Murakami in the original Japanese if you don’t speak Japanese ... This is as plastic as narrative can be; in the eeriest parts, the story feels like it’s melting in our hands. Exploring the fluid relationship between writer, reader and interpretation, it’s equally audacious and brilliant ... As a satire of psychiatric hospitals and prisons, the novel is frighteningly insightful. Its critique of masculine solipsism is devastating. And finally, as this bizarre story expands like the Big Bang, sections start to cohere around what are essentially theological themes. The result is Paradise Lost but with more gangsters: a zany interrogation of religious concepts in a wholly secular context ... In his own strange way, Moxon has translated his eschatological revelations into the lurid colors of a comic book universe ... If you make it through this brazen novel, the only thing you’ll want to do is find another survivor to talk about what it meant and what you missed. Call me.
... it’s initially thrilling to see a talented novelist promise to nakedly confront [big questions]...But as with all such acts, it’s a sad fact that safety nets reduce the thrill ... A place not only superbly rendered but one with resonance ... Father Julius jumps off the page. And he’s not the only one: From the murderous twins clad in bishop red to the bearded female trapeze artist, you want to deny the reality of these characters, but can’t. In sum, they’re strong inventions ... One shudders to imagine what Moxon would do with the means to make a horror movie ... It all makes for an engrossing setup whose suspense is difficult to resist. But cheap entertainment usually comes at a cost ... Initial intrigue has devolved into plain magic, and magic is a dangerous ingredient for a work that has explicitly signaled a desire to address questions of faith and social justice. For magic will gift you superficial momentum, true, but only while reducing the power of the quotidian ... Perhaps it’s because of this danger, then, that Moxon sometimes slips into some bad writing. Not bad on a molecular, sentence-by-sentence level; there the prose mostly excels. But at altitude, brutal sadism clashes with puerility. There are special powers and talismans and fate and prophecies and even (or inevitably?) a demented superhero. These magical contrivances emerge conveniently and just in the nick of time to serve nothing beyond plot utility. It’s the kind of bad writing you see in unapologetic genre work or, worse, prestige television, where failed novelists go to be flattered by failed readers ... [a] tepid, unpersuasive ending ... Ultimately, the novel wants the cachet of strongly gesturing at subjects like theology and socioethical philosophy, but is unwilling to do the hard work that, admittedly, nearly no one is clamoring for. So while we get multiple passing references to the prison-industrial complex being the present-day instantiation of Morris’s perversity, these then lie inert. Similarly, the elements ostensibly centered on theodicies and determinism are frustratingly low-level, and it’s here that the novel’s extensive reliance on magic most impairs deep inquiry. It’s just difficult to invest all that much in a character’s crisis of faith when he can turn himself into sandals. Deep subjects require at least medium depth of treatment. And while there’s no requirement that a work must exhaust any subject it points to, wouldn’t 600 pages of fiction be just the vehicle to do so?... a novel of expertly rendered horrors, the relative shallowness also disturbs, and thereby detracts. And maybe it’s unfair to ask that an author this skilled at invention, character and style also exhibit proficiency in philosophy and theology. But a reader can dream, no?
... sprawling, mesmerizing, unforgettable ... bizarre happenings set in motion an astonishing narrative that encompasses a huge sweep of history, from America’s founding to the present, and involves a series of magical realist events, including a fantastical circus and an underground world of crime. With typographical changes indicating switching between characters, Moxon’s intricately constructed apocalyptic caper is teeming with philosophical concepts. For fans of Mark Danielewski, David Foster Wallace (particularly Infinite Jest), Sergio De La Pava, and other fiercely ambitious writers, it sometimes feels like Moxon is a puppet master who has lost all control, only to masterfully pick up the strings to get his marionettes dancing again in an entirely unexpected way. Delving into memory and belief as well as complex questions about authorship and ownership, Moxon’s astounding novel, bursting at the seams with ideas and pathos, is a breathless demonstration of masterful storytelling.