After James (Paperback)

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So, while not technically science fiction, the use of genre in After James allows it to straddle a line between literary fiction and sci-fi/horror. However you feel about such blurred lines, I’m too excited about this book to not talk about it. If pressed, I’d call it post-modern genre fiction, but this is a book not easily defined by any glib categorization. After James is composed of interlocking parts that each take on a particular genre form: first the rural Gothic horror story, then the literary detective story, and finally what I like to call the “encounter with the Other”. With these three linked stories, each with new characters and new locations, Helm weaves a complex, subtle exploration of the ways that reality has begun to shift, not only with what we perceive as real, but what we are willing or able to accept as real. Technology--as expected and as it must--plays a large role in this, but not a central one. Instead Helm focuses on those fragile structures formed by our minds out of sensory percepts, accumulated knowledge, creative impulse, imagination and paranoia. As you progress through the separate narratives, new details seem to both illumine and simultaneously muddle complete understanding of the larger picture. The effect is tantalizing and disquieting, like feeling that something immense and perhaps sinister lies just under the surface of muddy waters.

— Chris P.


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.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781941040416
ISBN-10: 1941040411
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: September 13th, 2016
Pages: 368
Language: English