After James by Michael Helm

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After James is a complicated set of stories, always a half step away from clarity. Yet the work resonates so strongly it is impossible to dismiss. A resonance with which no cliché, no banality, interferes.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

For fans of Joshua Cohen and Ben Lerner, After James captures the dystopian strangeness of our current world.

A neuroscientist walks out of her life and isolates herself in the woods, intending to blow the whistle on a pharmaceutical company and its creativity drug gone wrong. A recently orphaned graduate school dropout is hired as a “literary detective” to decode the work of a mysterious Internet poet who writes about disappearances and murders with an inexplicably precise knowledge of private details. And a virologist discovers her identity has been stolen by a conceptual artist in whose stories someone always goes missing. Ali, James, and Celia exist in worlds where implausibilities that once belonged to science fiction, ancient superstition, or dystopian visions are real or impending.  

Set in great cities, remote regions, and deadly borderlands, Michael Helm’s groundbreaking novel, After James, is told in three parts, each gesturing toward a type of genre fiction: the gothic horror, the detective novel, and the apocalyptic. Science and art become characters, and secrets form, hidden in the codes of genetic sequences, poems, and the patterns of political violence. Part to part, elements repeat―otherworldly weather, disturbing artwork, buried corpses―and amid these echoes, a larger mystery arises, one that joins artifice to nature, and fiction to reality, delivering us into the troubling wonder of the present world.

 

About Michael Helm

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Michael Helm was born in Saskatchewan. His most recent novel, Cities of Refuge, is a national bestseller in Canada and was a Rogers Writers' Trust Ficiton Award finalist, a Giller Prize nominee, and a Globe and Mail and Now magazine Best Book of the Year. His earlier novels are The Projectionist, a finalist for the Giller Prize and the Trillium Award; and In the Place of Last Things, a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book. His writings on fiction, poetry, and the visual arts have appeared in North American newspapers and magazines, including Brick, where he serves as an editor. He teaches at York University in Toronto.
 
Published September 13, 2016 by Tin House Books. 368 pages
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Oct 12 2016

After James is a complicated set of stories, always a half step away from clarity. Yet the work resonates so strongly it is impossible to dismiss. A resonance with which no cliché, no banality, interferes.

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