Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Translated Man

Author and frequent visitor to The Middle Room, Chris Braak, has recently published his first novel. It was our sincere intent to offer a review of this book once we'd finished reading it.

However, no sooner had we concluded the novel than we discovered a review had just been posted here. We were somewhat dismayed to discover that it encapsulated our opinions as well as we could ever hope to, leaving us in the awkward position of merely reiterating what has already been said.

Therefore, what follows will be more a reflection that a review.

The Translated Man is, indeed, an excellent read, blending elements of science fiction, horror, and adventure into an intriguing story. What truly shines here are the descriptions of the world, which takes on a great deal of depth.

The first chapter is a bit awkward, but stick with it and you'll be well rewarded. It quickly evolves into a fascinating and intriguing detective story. That the story happens to unfold on a world that blends elements of Lovecraftian horror with nineteenth century science fiction and horror only enhances the novel.

While we have little to add to what has already been said, we find ourselves driven to offer an opinion as to the genre this book belongs in. The setting is unique. It shares common ground with steam punk, of course, but such similarities strike us as superficial: beneath the surface, this is another creature entirely. In terms of elements, The Translated Man could almost be seen as a distant cousin to Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, though the tone could hardly be more different.

We've heard it called many things, but we have taken to classifying it under the heading of "phlogiston punk". To our knowledge, there are no other works of phlogiston punk in existence, a fact that's easy to forget as the setting is so well developed it feels, at times, that it's been evolving for centuries. The Translated Man is a dizzyingly inventive book.

If you are interested, it can be ordered here in print or digital form.

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