‘Abyz’ – Lewis B. Georges
This novel is written as a mirror of itself. An event on page two (of one hundred) is mirrored on page ninety-nine; a birth on page thirty-seven is mirrored by a death on page sixty-two; a cathedral being built on page twelve is mirrored by a graveyard being dug on page eighty-seven. The plot winds its way to the midpoint and then becomes its own reflection, as each event’s opposite occurs in reverse order, while still telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
‘Now’ – Ionor Peters
Only one sentence in this novel is written in the present tense and it is located precisely at the book’s midpoint. The half coming before that sentence is written in the past tense, and traces the events that lead up to that moment. The half coming after is written in the future tense, and tells of the events that will follow. According to the author this reflects the “microscopic and diaphanous nature of the present, a sliver of time encroached on by the endless past and future.” Nevertheless he hopes to impart the importance of the present: “Though it is quite mundane, that sentence [in the present tense] becomes incredibly meaningful to the reader because everything else in the novel determines it and is determined by it.”
‘Loquela’ – April Waarden
This novel is presented as the journal of Richard Warif, a linguistics professor whose life falling apart. We hear about events beyond his control that constantly do him harm. After he loses his job he decides to regain control by taking command of what he sees as the most powerful thing in the world: language. He begins making small changes to the rules of language and applying them in his daily life. For example he decides that repeating the first syllable of a word at the end indicates that the word now means its opposite (happyha=unhappy). What makes this such an interesting read is that every time he invents a new rule, the book (his diary) adopts it and follows it. The changes take place slowly so that the reader can keep up, but by the end of the book the language is completely unrecognizable to someone that hasn’t been following the changes. It’s a unique way to express–and let the reader experience–a person’s descent into madness. As Dr. Warif becomes absorbed and isolated by this new language, he is eventually cut off from the world around him.
‘The Journey’ – John Bellington
This novel tells a continuous story from beginning to end, but changes genres every chapter. It includes chapters done in typical–almost to the point of being caricaturish–film noire, fantasy, western, superhero styles, as well as many others. It isn’t just the style that changes, everything from the setting to the characters changes with each chapter, while the plot continues in these different guises. For example the medieval chapter ends as the hero is about to joust with his enemy. The next chapter picks up the plot with the hero facing the enemy in a duel, ready to draw, thus beginning the wild west chapter. All in all the novel gives the sense that plot exists in an abstract way, and takes on various accidental forms depending on the specific work.
‘Her Violet Flame’ – Henry Davidson and Paul White; Henry Davidson and Moe Walters; Henry Davidson and Sharon O’Connor
Henry Davidson died before completing this novel and it was finished independently by Paul White, Moe Walters and Sharon O’Connor, creating three different novels that diverge at the point where the original Davidson text ends. What is interesting is how the portion that they all share–the beginning, written by Davidson, identical in all three–becomes different in each. For example, a mysterious stranger whose identity was never revealed by Davidson is identified as three different characters in each version, retroactively making the Davidson portion different (though technically identical) in all three. The three texts also differ wildly in terms of genre and style. The Davidson portion seems to match when connected with all three and becomes coloured by them, in the same way that a series of three notes can take on different qualities based on the fourth. In this way all three books are internally consistent, mutually exclusive worlds, despite having half of their texts in common.
‘Books I Would Love to Read’ – Michael Dishu
This novel tells the story of a book editor whose workdays are filled with reading that he doesn’t enjoy. Ironically since he is so busy reading for work he doesn’t have the time to read for pleasure. What is interesting about this book is that we get tiny glimpses of the books he edits: one about a planet whose culture revolves around the number three, another whose plot is a mirror of itself, even a book containing summaries of many other books, one of which is a book similar to Books I Would Love to Read.
‘Trzy” – Raqu Anami
This science fiction novel takes place on Trzy, a world similar to our own but with one major difference. Instead of having a sun and moon traveling through their sky, they have three objects: a sun, a moon and a small planet caught in Trzy’s orbit. These three bodies create three equal phases of the day instead of our two. Because of this, their world didn’t develop concepts as binary oppositions like we did. (The author assumes that this way of thinking on Earth can be traced back to ancient civilizations basing their mythologies on the duality of day and night, leading to distinctions such as good and evil, strong and weak etc.; a manner of thinking that has carried on until today.) On this world every concept is anchored on three ends; instead of being situated on a spectrum between two extremes, their concepts can be visualized as a triangle with three extremes. For example their world doesn’t have the concepts of good and evil; the closest corollary would be their ent (roughly corresponding to someone who follows the law), ka (roughly someone who does things based on an action’s long term outcomes) and ip (roughly someone who does things based on how it makes them feel).
[I obviously haven’t read it, but from what I know these concepts become even more complicated. People in this world can’t be ‘more’ or ‘less’ of a ka, for example, since more and less are ends of a spectrum of quantity. Instead there is again a tripartite concept that describes how each end of a tripartite concept applies to a person or thing.]
‘Notes on the Underground’ – Bethany Nomo
There are two overlapping worlds in this novel. The actual text tells the story of a curtain cleaner who reflects on, and meddles in, the lives of his customers. But we also get a glimpse into the world of a fictional reader of this text, whose notes we see scrawled in the margins of the book (written while on the London underground). Through his notes we can follow the events of his life, and also his interpretation of the novel. This becomes especially interesting when he makes mistakes and misunderstands something in the text. We get a glimpse of how these mistaken ideas enter his life, sometimes for good but more often for bad.
‘That Down Feeling’ – Willie H. Solmers
On the surface this short novel is simply about a man who loses the things around him and then finds peace with what he has left. What makes this book interesting is that it aims to represent the musical movement of a chord progression by way of plot. The book is made up of twenty-four chapters that reflect two cycles of a twelve bar blues progression. So for example, issues resolve themselves and return to a stable state as the chapter corresponding to the ‘V’ chord ends and the one corresponding to the ‘I’ chord begins.
‘A Treatise on the Mental Creation of Objects’ – Remi le Marche
This is a bit different than the others on the list. It’s one of those ‘lost books’, like Homer’s Margites or Plato’s Hemocrates, books from history that we have reason to believe existed, but of which no copies remain. I wrote about Remi le Marche here, a philosopher turned reclusive monk, who dedicated himself to proving his theory of metaphysics by demonstration. He spent years developing the mental focus needed to envision tiny points of light with such accuracy that they would necessarily have to exist. Although he had stopped publishing by this point there are rumors that he wrote this book on the topic.
‘Our Oboros’ – William Stevehouse
This is essentially a book of short stories, with each story emerging from the preceding one. For example, in one story we read about the protagonist’s experience at a party which reminds him of a walk he took some time in the past. That walk is then narrated in the present tense in the next story, during which he recalls falling into a river which becomes the next story, and so on. It’s a book of stories within stories within stories. The cool part about this book is the ending.
SPOILER (highlight to read): As I said, each story ends with a recollection of some previous event that becomes the next story. The final story in the book ends with a recollection of the first. This makes all of the stories into an endless loop of recollections with no beginning or end.
‘A Life in the Day of Walther Gil’ – Calvin Venicio
This novel recounts the unremarkable life of Walther Gil, from the moment he is born to the moment he dies. What makes this book special is the changing prose, which matures along with the protagonist. For example, during Walther’s first few months the story is told in bursts of words, without grammar or punctuation. A nap is described as: ‘angry hurts nononono soft dark dream’. This slowly develops through rudimentary sentences during his first few years before reaching an apex of complexity in adulthood. It then gently descends through short, calm sentences when Walther reaches old age before returning to unstructured bursts of words during his last few moments.