The Body Library is the second book in the Nyquist Mysteries series published by Angry Robots but this is the first of Jeff Noon’s books I’ve picked up.
There is a fluidness to Noon’s writing that initially made me think The Body Library would be like Ishiguro’s dream-like The Unconsoled. As I read further, however, I felt more like I was in the atmosphere of 1408 by Stephen King or the movie Dark City — the noir settings and slip-away realities where what’s around the corner can’t be articulated and yet … Things change and reality is different but the writing is well-structured so it’s easy to follow. The writing is as much of a treat as the setting and the story and the characters.
In this magical realism structure, writing such as that below, fits in seamlessly before we go back to the pace of the noir setting.
INK … his eyes closed and he sank further down into the dark into the flow the fluid all was fluid a black liquid in which his body floated drifted suspended submerged breathing yes still breathing in the liquid in the blackness of the pool he sank down and lay there suspended and dreaming and being read yes being read head to foot every part of him his mind his thoughts his blood and bone his eyes his limbs his heart yes all of him read again and again as a book of flesh where the ink was seeking the stories all the stories of his life every last one being read by the pool of ink in which he lay suspended drifting floating submerged breathing yes breathing still and being read and his eyes…
I loved the story with its world of writing and the mechanics of it all come to life. In 1959, Storyville, Private Eye John Nyquist is set on the trail of a man who doesn’t seem to be doing much apart from talking to people but as the trail leads to a tower at the edge of the city and an illicit book — the Body Library — he both can’t and can escape.
When narrative structure becomes legislated and mandatory, abstract experimental works become intoxicating. The writer’s life becomes a metaphor for the human condition, which Noon brings to life and then deconstructs again. And when you break down life there’s always some pain right in the middle of everything.
A great read with a creepy child and a place where you can check in any time but you can never leave.
The Body Library is published on April 3 2018.