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Gods of Aberdeen: A Novel Paperback – July 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Nathan's somewhat derivative debut (think Donna Tartt's The Secret History, with a little magic thrown in), Eric Dunne, a 16-year-old wunderkind, orphan and autodidact Latin prodigy, escapes New Jersey thanks to a scholarship to Aberdeen College, where his quest for knowledge inevitably comes at a very high price. On the ivied New England campus, Eric dabbles in awkward sexual fumblings and psychedelic drugs, but specializes in the occult, with fatal results. Apprenticed to fossilized academics including head librarian Cornelius Graves and star medievalist William Cade, he also teams up with fellow research assistants Art Fitch, Howie Spacks and Dan Higgins in search of the philosopher's stone, which supposedly holds the key to immortality. Eric and his rumpled, preppy cohorts quote Chaucer at each other, identify with Charlemagne and jet off to Prague in search of a lost alchemical tome. Eric's intellectual musings ("But it was doomed from the start, putting so much faith in knowledge, not realizing that knowledge by itself can be dangerous") share space with awkward exposition and purple description, but Nathan perfectly captures the angst and pretension of adolescents taking themselves very seriously.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

America's love affair with higher learning continues--reading about it, anyway. This latest entry in the codes-'n'-classics sweepstakes stars Eric Dunne, a 16-year-old Dickensian naif; an orphan sent to live in a New Jersey slum with his callous aunt, he teaches himself Latin in the public school library and wins a scholarship to stately Aberdeen University in Connecticut. His genius wins him a place on the elite research team of a superstar professor writing his magnum opus on the Middle Ages. But living in the professor's house, Eric learns of another project: the quest for the Philosopher's Stone, the supposed secret to eternal life. Eric and his cohorts are hard to empathize with or even to believe, spouting Latin at each other and seeming more like scholarly homunculi than flesh-and-blood undergrads. But Ivy-covered libraries and musty stacks do make the perfect setting for far-fetched mysteries, especially in an era when libraries themselves are mysteries to too many. Readers who liked The Rule of Four (2004) are likely to like this. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743250834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743250832
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,747,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Micah Nathan is the author of the collection "Jack the Bastard and Other Stories" (One Peace Books, 2012), along with the internationally bestselling novel "Gods of Aberdeen" (Simon & Schuster, 2005) and the novel "Losing Graceland" (Crown, 2011). He was the 2010 recipient of Boston University's Saul Bellow Prize for Fiction, has received an Associated Press Award, and was a finalist for the Tobias Wolff Award and the Innovative Fiction Award.

His novels have been translated into seven languages, and his essays and short stories have appeared in Vanity Fair, The Best American Mystery Stories, Boston Globe Magazine, Glimmer Train, The Gettysburg Review, Bellingham Review, LEMON Magazine (as contributing editor), and other national publications. Micah is an Artists Fellow at the St. Botolph Club and a roving writer-in-residence at Kingston University in London. He lives in Boston, where he occasionally teaches film, literature, and creative writing.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. H. Lager on June 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I don't normally read thrillers, so when a friend of mine recommended Gods of Aberdeen, I started reading the book warily--and could not stop turning the pages. This is no ordinary thriller. Set in the rarefied and gothic atmosphere of an exclusive New England college, this is the story of an untimely death, as well as of a young man's journey of self-discovery. Nathan's considerable powers of description allow the reader into the high pressure world of Aberdeen and its mysterious academic cabal, but also into the inner life of Eric Dunne, a sixteen-year-old prodigy who, while researching medeival history, learns much about fear, mortality, and the darkest corners of the human heart.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By CurtainsForYou on July 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
So here we are, folks, with yet another boy-goes-to-college-meets-smart-kids-faces-moral-dilemma first novel. Why should we care? Why should we even bother?

I didn't want to like this book. I wanted to snicker at what I believed was an obvious riding-of-the-coattails. "Rule of Four," "Prep," you name it, it's already been done, right? And then I opened the first page...and Nathan had me at "I remember Aberdeen College well."

Call me a sucker for good prose. Call me easily seduced by brutally honest portayals of spoiled youth. Call me a fan of writers who take a subject (in this case, alchemy) I know absolutely *nothing* about, and by the end of their book I feel like an expert.

Yes, this book is about the search for the Philosopher's Stone. But to place it in the category of an academic mystery would be a mistake. The Philosopher's Stone is Nathan's MacGuffin, a plot device used to show us the loss of innocence of 16 year-old Eric Dunne, a freshman at Aberdeen College. Eric's a poor orphan from New Jersey, and Aberdeen College is an ivy-covered liberal arts college in Connecticut. There's a mysterious death, a quest for the ultimate truth, and along the way Eric grows up. We grow up with him.

Alchemy is about transformation, which mirrors the central theme of this book. Eric Dunne arrives at Aberdeen College, and leaves an adult. He's heartbroken, lied to, given booze and drugs and basicallly everything else that happens to naive freshman, and we're with him all the way. Damn if this book didn't make me miss college...and also realize I'm glad college is over.

So where do I place this book among my literary faves? Surprisingly high, considering it's a debut novel from a young author.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Long on August 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Neither the life-changing opus some readers claimed nor the amateurish fraud purported by the obviously (and curiously) spiteful, this book served it's purpose well: it kept me company over the course of one week. I'm a fan of coming-of-agers as it is, yet find myself often disappointed by the usual themes played out ad nauseum.

The interesting thing about this book is the checklist of typical themes presented in a fresh manner. Kirkus said this book makes its cliches sing together in beautiful unison, and I agree. Loss of sexual innocence? Check. Betrayal? Check. Socioeconomic divisions played out on a fancy-pants college setting? Check. Nathan didn't bore me, as I feared. Instead he took risks with well-travelled genre material, and in my opinion, his risk paid off.

So what we have here is a young, orphaned boy far more intelligent than emotionally secure, sucked into a group of other smarties at a New England college, searching for the secret to immortality. Said secret takes the form of an ancient manuscript(s), and their search for said secret occupies half the novel. The other half is occupied by the young boy's coming of age. He parties, has sex, gets confused, and makes some terrible decisions. Like I said, on paper not the most intriguing (or original) concept, but Nathan pulls it off.

I suspect some of the negative reactions to Nathan's book is a response to his uncomfortable (but nevertheless intriguing) subplot of sexual ambiguity between male friends, along with threads of sexual abuse that silently wind throughout the novel. Again, not your usual topics for a coming-of-ager, and with these sort of risks come the inevitable backlash. But what's that old saying...better to be looked over than overlooked. Nathan's writing evokes strong emotions, and I hope his next tale forges its own genre path.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Wilson on July 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I think we may have something here...a book that actually manages to be both well-written with a juicy plot to match. Did I just say "juicy?" Indeed.

Many authors seem to have a difficult time balancing plot with their literary aspirations. Not so, this book. Mr. Nathan treads the fine line between John Knowles and Dan Brown, and he does so with uncanny confidence and acumen. Gods of Aberdeen works on many levels: as a coming-of-ager it's brutally honest without resorting to maudlin/cheap laughs. As a scholarly thriller it's erudite without being stuffy, and it appeals to the highest common denominator rather than dumbing things down.

The gist of the story is this: Eric Dunne, a 16 year-old prodigy, leaves the slums of New Jersey and attends Aberdeen College. Eric, it seems, is quite the Latin expert, and attracts the attentions of Aberdeen's famous professor, Dr. Cade. Eric also attracts a group of students who are searching for the Philosopher's Stone (no, not a Harry Potter rip-off but the real deal. Nathan does a terrific job inserting medieval history and alchemy into the tale). Unfortunately this search leads to some very bad things, and Eric finds himself caught between the world of a college freshman and the world of too-smart-for-their-own-good students. Throw in some nubile coeds, a smattering of drugs and alcohol, and you have the makings of a dark collegiate thriller.

Of course there are moments when it becomes clear Mr. Nathan is a young novelist a bit too eager to strut his stuff--but we can forgive him for that because he's given us an intelligent, honest novel, with enough plot to satisfy the most jaded beach-reader, and enough character depth to please the most jaded artiste. In a publishing world where hype never fails to disappoint, this is one instance where the prose speaks for itself. A stunning debut from a gifted writer.

Thomas Wilson
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