The Revolutionaries Try Again plays out against the lost decade of Ecuador's austerity and the stymied idealism of three childhood friends—an expat, a bureaucrat, and a playwright—who are as sure about the evils of dictatorship as they are unsure of everything else, including each other.
You’re never directly informed about what counts as revolution and who in particular is trying to achieve it. Instead, The Revolutionaries Try Again dissects a decade of Ecuadorian austerity and idealism through often jarring and always stunning literary montage ... what Cardenas does so adeptly in his debut novel is highlight conditions against which feelings of pointlessness emerge in the first place.
This is a book at once haunting and haunted, rippling with the ghosts of Latin America’s atrocities, disappointments, colonial strangleholds, insurgencies and fierce hopes, a book at once specific to Ecuador’s historical realities and bursting with significance to our whole hemisphere ... The style of this book is as ambitious as its territory, moving fluidly from voice to voice, from luminous long sentences to syntactical fragmentation. Cardenas, an Ecuadoran now living in San Francisco, has made the Nabokovian move of claiming adoptive English as his own, and he gives us many beautifully eloquent moments ... There are times when the structure of the book strains under the weight of its own ambition, where the language seems to fray. But this flaw is ultimately overshadowed by the novel’s explosive power.
[Cardenas' fiction] speaks like a wise but fevered man -- exalting in digression, pining for something lost, planting profundity amid little clouds of chaos ... Cardenas artfully renders these ironies with rhetorical and textual acrobatics of his own ... If the varied style sounds wildly disorienting, it usually isn't. The novel's use of various forms and voices brings together a multitude of stories that echo and reframe one another.