Most serious Egan fans don't seem like this as much as her others, but I am giving it 5 stars: 4/5 because I am a contrarian on Egan; 1/5 because I trMost serious Egan fans don't seem like this as much as her others, but I am giving it 5 stars: 4/5 because I am a contrarian on Egan; 1/5 because I truly feel this hits the mark where her others fall short for me, namely:
1) I loved the wildly different parallel story lines, how they are roughly linear and sensible on their own while also weaving together in an intricate way to tell a larger story;
2) I *adored* the big metaphor and imagery- the sea, diving, submergence and emergence. I admired how Egan used it pervasively but subtly; used it as a link to tie her characters to the story and to each other. Buried secrets, always threatening to break the surface; plumbing the depths. There is a soliloquy in the novel of the metaphorical language derived from the sea.
And there is more to this imagery: there is the idea of lives lived in otherwise inhabitable, inhospitable environments, whether in broken bodies (like Lydia's), broken systems (like the "syndicate"), broken or abandoned relationships, like ... well, almost everyone's. Lots of liminality, characters on the edge of or between two worlds, land and water, light and dark, legal and criminal (Dexter repeatedly refers to dawn - that liminal time - as a comfort zone; he is also a man who seeks to "decriminalize" his livelihood, and ... it's not too far a stretch ... to cleanse his soul. (view spoiler)[And he does so - or attempts to do so - by leading Anna to her father; by, literally, diving down with her to find him and - on the ascent, having some kind of spiritual awakening. This scene is extraordinary and SO. WELL. WRITTEN.). (hide spoiler)]
Finally, there is incredible isolation and loneliness, and fear of it. It's striking to me that Anna is more afraid of being alone at night on the streets of New York or in her apartment than she is of being 30 feet under water, surrounded by blackness, connected to life by a fragile line of oxygen. On the bottom of the bay, she shuts her eyes. She is completely alone, in as alien an environment as it is possible to be in on the planet. This is the only time she feels calm. Incredible.
3) I *adored* her smaller metaphors and images, almost all of them apt and perfect, with the occasional blemish that just made the rest sparkle like sunlight off the waves (see what I did there);
4) I thought she handled with deftness the historical fiction aspect of the novel while retaining that Egan-esque perspective/story choices that feel contemporary and unique;
5) the descriptions of Anna's dive (view spoiler)[to locate her father's body, his shipwreck and subsequent time drifting at sea before rescue (hide spoiler)] are masterpieces of writing; suspenseful, poetic, dramatic (but not melo-) and atmospheric. Stunning. Part VI, overall, is a writing masterclass.
Highly recommended. Consumed by audio, with three narrators (one telling the story from Anna's POV; one from her father's; one from Dexter Styles'), which was at first challenging, then later facilitated the coming together of the story....more