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The Avian Gospels, Book I Paperback – September 14, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This debut has the potential to become a cult classic, if readers aren't distracted from the oddly compelling story by the unconventional structure. The beleaguered residents of an unnamed mythical city long at war with Hungary are enjoying a parade to mark the end of the "endless war." In the midst of the parade, refugee Zvominir's wife goes into labor, and then dies giving birth to their son in the abandoned storefront they call home. Seventeen years later, Zvominir and Morgan, his son, are "the Bird Man and Bird Boy"; they can control birds but are opposed in their outlooks and philosophies. But when the city suffers from a bird invasion so large that they block out the sun, the pair are commanded by their tyrannical ruler, Judge Charles Giggs, to clear the birds away, and soon the citizens (including the Judge's daughter, Katherine) and the birds are caught up in a conflict of ideals. Cleverly formatted in a Biblical style, this is a fascinating examination of what makes a martyr, a myth, or a legend. (Aug.) (c)
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Review

This debut has the potential to become a cult classic. . . The beleaguered residents of an unnamed mythical city long at war with Hungary are enjoying a parade to mark the end of the ''endless war.'' In the midst of the parade, refugee Zvominir's wife goes into labor, and then dies giving birth to their son in the abandoned storefront they call home. Seventeen years later, Zvominir and Morgan, his son, are ''the Bird Man and Bird Boy''; they can control birds but are opposed in their outlooks and philosophies. But when the city suffers from a bird invasion so large that they block out the sun, the pair are commanded by their tyrannical ruler, Judge Charles Giggs, to clear the birds away, and soon the citizens (including the Judge's daughter, Katherine) and the birds are caught up in a conflict of ideals. Cleverly formatted in a Biblical style, this is a fascinating examination of what makes a martyr, a myth, or a legend. --Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Short Flight/Long Drive Books (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982530129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982530122
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 4.2 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,110,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown (November, 2010):
[...]

I'd heard a lot about The Avian Gospels (Short Flight / Long Drive Books) before ever reading it. I'd stared at those covers online, the red and gold, the abstract of birds in flight, and imagined what a combination of The Birds, The Road, and The Stand might look like. Would it be dense language, a languid read of heavy prose? The sample online hinted at that. Would it be a story of nature rebelling against man, an image of a phone booth, birds attacking it, stuck in my head? Would it be a journey across the wastelands, a cast of misfits striving for redemption? It is all of these things, and at the same time, none.

The first word to come to mind when describing The Avian Gospels is surreal. The beautiful oxblood covers frame the two volume set, and immediately set the tone with their embossed gold stamping of birds slowly gathering, the gilded edges painting the rounded corners with shimmering flakes. It gives off a prophetic, biblical vibe, complete with numbers running down the sides of each page to mark the scripture of your choice. The Avian Gospels is set in the near future, where this city without a name has been shrouded in birds, a plague of flapping wings and desecration. This is an alternate future where Oklahoma and Hungary butt up against each other and society has descended into a battle between the RedBlacks and the gypsies, with the constant threat of the Swedes and Hungarians, just beyond the borders. The rich live above ground, or far away in the suburbs, while the gypsies hide in the tunnels, struggling to survive.
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The Avian Gospels was a really unique book in its format. Written as an actual gospel, complete with bible-thin pages and red ribbon page marker, it actually (almost surprisingly so) adds to the tone of the book by making you feel like you're really reading the strange holy book of even stranger people.

The story managed to be oddly grounded despite its somewhat off-the-wall subject matter, somewhere (if i were pressed to categorize it) between Shane Jones' Light Boxes and Chris Adrian's The Children's Hospital. I am a bit conflicted on the subject of the way the book ends, (no real spoilers here, but if you're extra-sensitive to those things, read no further) in that I can't decide if there is going to be a Book II, or if the abruptness is part of the mythology, in a kind of Sopranos-esque open-endedness, meant to drive home the religious artifact feel of the story. While I'll have to stew on that for a while, overall this was a really enjoyable book
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Novy's dialogue is like the love child of Ernest Hemingway and David Foster Wallace - a combination that should not be possible, which makes it no different than the world Novy creates: war-torn city in a country that borders on both Oklahoma and Hungary, a hodgepodge of times and places, a tapestry woven together into a surrealistic literary Escher painting. Gypsy-Norwegians playing ska while running at top speed. What appears to be a European-style city, with no reference to cars or phones or computers... yet other elements suggestive of modern times...

Freed up from the constraints of time-space as we know it, all we're left with is base humanity. Novy uses the vehicle of this at-times absurdist remix of the universe we actually live in to offer a page-turning exploration of themes such as the fissure between perception and reality; good and evil in its most basic form; fear and tribalism; teen angst; hedonism; the corrupting nature of power; the often tortured dynamic of family; the fragility of hope; and the irrationality of war and religion.

Characters jump off the page, and you cannot help but gawk at this impossible yet all-too-familiar world Novy creates. The book engages you early on, and you only get sucked in further from there... and at an increasingly rapid pace.

A unique, engaging and often uncomfortable novel, the author challenges you to re-examine what you think you know and leave the safety of your comfort zone to be an explorer for a little while.

As a storyteller, Novy combines elements of widely disparate authors from the page-turning mainstreamers like Grisham and Clancy, to the symbolism-laden esoteric mad geniuses like David Foster Wallace, even to sci-fi greats like Arthur C.
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Format: Paperback
This is a review of both volumes

Adam Novy's 'The Avian Gospels' is a novel that refuses to color in the lines. At no time while I was reading it could I say, this is literary fiction, dystopian fiction, political satire, myth, fable, fairy tale or love story. It is all these things and more and the whole is greater for it. The novel is set in a city that is suffering a plague of birds on a biblical scale and centered on a boy, Morgan, who can control them. Morgan and his father, who also has the power to control the birds, are opposed in their approaches to life under a regime, headed by Judge Giggs, which has all the worst elements of stalinist Russia, and monarchist France.

Somehow, miraculously, in two small volumes, Novy manages to examine otherness, self-identification, the destructive power of love as well as the madness that can come of making a myth, but not at the expense of characters who are wholly alive and realized. He tempers the bleakness with a wickedly dry humor and an ever increasing pace that makes the book hard to put down
(buy both volumes, it really is just one story).

The novel is printed and bound to look like a hotel bible in red faux leather with a sparse pattern of birds on volume I that becomes almost a blot on the cover of volume II. The biblical look is carried through to the inside with line number and large font numbers for each chapter heading and gilt page edges and ribbon markers. I confess though, that I thought the books were so beautiful that I read the free e-book version that publisher sent me. Highly recommended (
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