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Liminal States Paperback – April 1, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

(Starred Review) SomethingAwful.com editor Parsons (My Tank Is Fight!) whips up an awe-inspiring, helter-skelter journey through mind-blowing SF, western dime novel, noir mystery, and near-future dystopian horror that somehow manages to become a cohesive, thought-provoking whole. Gideon Long is a brutal and brutalized man who is in the process of getting himself shot in 1874 when he stumbles onto a pool that will create a copy of him every time he dies. Warren Groves, husband of Long’s lover Annie, becomes Long’s unwilling partner in resurrection, and the two have an uneasy history down the years. In the 1950s, Warren meets a woman who looks just like Annie, and events begin spinning out of control as the mysterious pool turns out to have its own agenda. There’s no way a novel with this many moving parts should hold together, but it does, and even readers initially daunted by the jumble will soon be glad to go wherever Parsons takes them. (Apr.)


"Parsons's debut is a tour-de-force, a justifiably showy demonstration of the author's chameleon-like ability to write in several genres all at once, and it emerges as one of the scariest and bleakest tales I can remember." - Cory Doctorow, bestselling author of Little Brother

"LIMINAL STATES is a beautiful, fascinating, and engrossing novel. The characters are rich, their destinies intertwined over more than one lifespan; the setting is lavish with well-researched and utterly convincing details. This book will capture you." - Kevin J. Anderson, bestselling author of Sisterhood of Dune

"Of all the books you read this year, Liminal States may just be the most ambitious and rewarding of all." - Nick Sharps, SF Signal

"LIMINAL STATES delivers scenes full of dark meaning and crazy intensity. There's really nothing else quite like it, and adventurous readers are urged to seek it out." - Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle

"With LIMINAL STATES, Zack Parsons establishes himself as an exciting and compelling new writer. I heartily recommend LIMINAL STATES especially if a mashup of westerns and noir and dystopian horror is something that appeals to you." - Rajan Khanna, Tor.com

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; Original edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806533641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806533643
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Zack Parsons is a Chicago area writer known for his acerbic commentary and bleakly humorous science fiction. He has authored two non-fiction books, MY TANK IS FIGHT! and YOUR NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR IS A DRAGON. His works, including That Insidious Beast and CONEX: Convict Connections, have appeared online and in various published anthologies including A COMMONPLACE BOOK OF THE WEIRD: THE UNTOLD STORIES OF H.P. LOVECRAFT and OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS: DOOMSDAY SCENARIOS.

His debut novel, LIMINAL STATES, will be released in April of 2012.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Liminal States is not so much a book so much as it is an experience, and an incredibly disturbing, thought-provoking experience at that. It is three different perspectives on a richly portrayed universe that is familiar to our own and yet progressively more bizarre without ever straying away from believability, even as it plumbs the most horrifying depths of what it means to be human. More than that, however, it is an entirely engaging puzzle, where each piece of the story falls into place with an often sinister, subtle click. Part western, part detective story, and part modern narrative, it travels each of these paths easily in entirely unique, strong voices that never falter or hit an awkward note for the duration of the book despite the most trying of situations.

It is a long, unblinking stare into something that is profoundly unsettling and alien, something more terrible than our own worst notions of hell, all described in beautiful, often sad, tragic tones.

An entire universe has been created here, introduced through song, serial, and several trailers, all of which are not necessary to enjoyment of the book but should be taken as integral parts of the experience via liminalstates.com. From the very first page, it is quite obvious that this is a labor of love on all fronts.

It is one hell of a ride.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
SUMMARY: A brutal story told through three different genres that centers around the discovery of a strange pool that can revive and duplicate any creatures that fall into it. Brilliantly realized, the novel still suffers a little from some flaws common to first-time fiction.
Parsons has written a couple nonfiction books, but this is his first fiction novel. The tale mostly concerns two men -- Warren Groves, a wild west officer with murder in his bones, and Gideon Long, a man made cruelly desperate by his wealthy father's emotional abuse. After a train robbery/childbirth gone wrong, the two men cross paths and end up discovering a sort of Fountain of Youth that has the power to revive them every time they die, and which also begins regularly producing duplicates of their past selves. As time passes, these duplicates begin to cause problems, and the true nature of the magical pool is revealed to be far more sinister than it seems.

Although I am not a big fan of Westerns, I was immediately drawn into the tale by Parsons' slick, minutely-detailed prose. His depiction of the big train robbery, for instance, enthralled me in a way few books have in recent years. Furthermore, Parsons' construction of this alternate world is so rich and fully-realized that it is truly impressive. Astounding even. The story is unique, and although the elements of it are often times bewilderingly complex, Parsons' sumptuous prose keeps the story from feeling like a chore.

Parsons does succumb to a flaw common to first-time writers of fiction: overwriting. As far as flaws go, this is the kind you WANT to have, especially if your writing is as accomplished as Parsons'.
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Format: Paperback
Liminal States is an amazing novel. It is an amazing three novels. Zack Parsons manages to explore a disparate selection of literary genres while maintaining a cohesive whole. In each book he touches on and plays with genre cliches, but they never feel tired because they're always in service to the central conceit, which is wonderfully original. Each of the three different voices works in service to the novel as a whole, and the ultimate conclusion is a product of them.

The book plays with characterization in a unique way and develops the leads across all three sections. They only become more developed and more compelling as the story moves towards its conclusion.

This is not an easy book. Things are not spoon-fed to the reader, but they are there. Working out what exactly separates this world from our own can often mean going back 10 or 20 pages, but figuring out these slight irregularities is incredibly rewarding. Reading the online prequel serial will make some things much clearer and increase appreciation of certain moments in the story.

Liminal States is an enormous undertaking, especially for a first novel, but Zack succeeds magnificently.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Probably the weirdest book I've ever read, and I mean that as the highest compliment. It's very ambitious and fires on all cylinders from the word go. The first act is a Cormac McCarthy-esque blood-soaked Western, the second act is a gritty noir mystery, and the third act is a dystopian sci-fi adventure. At the heart of it all is a Hatfield/McCoy rivalry that spans centuries thanks to a mysterious pool that allows the main characters to replicate themselves. Seriously a great read. Not for the faint of heart, though.
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By Ryan on November 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just finished this book, and it provoked a strong reaction in me, so I have to leave a review. First of all, let me say that in my opinion, this is not a perfect book. There are some small issues I had with it, but I just didn't have the heart to give it four stars. I think it's much closer to five than four. Let me begin with the things that I personally did not like:

The single most glaring flaw to me (though this is entirely subjective and others may disagree) was Parsons' prose. It's not bad, exactly, I don't want to say that, but it did repeatedly pull me out my immersion in the story. The thing is this: even though I like literature and do a fair bit of reading, I'm a physics major, and thus I'm pretty left-brained most of the time. Unlike some artier people, who are more in tune with this sort of thing and have a better eye for it, when I read a novel, I do not generally notice the "style" of the prose. I comprehend what it says and move on, unless it strikes me as particularly graceful, as does much of Adam Smith's writing (though he didn't really write literature), as does much of Twain's writing, to name two examples off the top of my head.

With this book, though, the prose stuck out at me. The writing sort of plods along, for lack of a better term. Sentences tend to be simple, declarative statements with a single clause, with not very many commas. Perhaps "journalistic" would be a better way of describing it. I just recall many instances in which I would become distracted by the way in which a passage was written. Here's an example from the first paragraph of chapter two:

"He was barefoot. His nightshirt was soiled with blood.
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