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Arcadia: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 9, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Henry Lytten, a British professor and struggling writer, is trying to complete an epic fantasy novel that will compete with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. He bounces ideas off his young neighbor, Rosie, who inadvertently enters Lytten's magical Anterworld through a portal in his basement. A brilliant physicist and a respected scholar are just two of the other main characters—each chapter is told from 10 different points of view. While perplexing at times, the three settings (1960s England, Anterworld, and a dystopian island off the coast of Scotland) help keep the time travel/alternate history stories centered, and there is a satisfying conclusion. The author also created an app called Arcadia for iOS devices. It's free to download and explore, but finishing the novel costs $3.99. In the app, readers can choose how they want to read the novel—stories by character ("The Young Girl's Tale, "The Scientist's Tale," etc.) or by setting. VERDICT This is metafiction at its best, and teens who like complicated science fiction will appreciate the challenge.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
“Every so often you read a novel to which the best critical response is simply ‘Wow!,’ followed by a sigh of pleasure. Eighteen years ago I felt this way about Iain Pears’s intricate historical mystery An Instance of the Fingerpost. The book dazzled for many of the usual reasons—fascinating characters, a richly presented fictive world, polished writing, lively dialogue, a serious engagement with ideas about life and morality—but, more unusually, it was also a masterpiece of plot construction. All this is again true, and then some, of Mr. Pears’s Arcadia. . . . ‘Qui moderatur tempus intelligit omnia,’ goes the Lytten family motto: ‘He who controls time understands everything.’ Doesn’t that actually describe the art of plot construction and its master, Iain Pears?”
—Michael Dirda, The Wall Street Journal
“[Pears] is a master at creating structurally intricate novels. . . . As Pears steadily builds his multiplicity of stories, his orchestrations become something far more ambitious, a calculated and at times quite droll assault on the very nature of narrative itself.”
—Steve Donoghue, The Washington Post
“Arcadia leads readers into an escalating series of interconnected textual worlds. . . . Pears is a great writer of ideas and intellectual adventure.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A complex romp through time and genres . . . that intertwines 10 major characters over several centuries, with allusions abounding to Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, and a raft of others. . . . [It’s] fun to puzzle out how all the strands fit together.”
—Patricia Hagen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“With Arcadia, Iain Pears has woven a delightful tapestry in the bold colors of complexity, wonder, and irony, even while offering the careful reader a chance to ferret out numerous literary allusions. Arcadia is filled with satisfying surprises up to the last sentence of its telling. Only a novelist with the knowledge and mental agility shown again and again by Iain Pears could give readers a gift as rich as Arcadia.”
—Dan Simmons, best-selling author of The Terror
“Arcadia is a gripping tale, with memorable characters who lead us through the plot’s twists and turns to the book’s deeply satisfying resolution. Iain Pears has long been one of my favorite authors, and Arcadia is another example of his masterful storytelling: deftly told, genre-defying, and a treat to read.”
—Deborah Harkness, best-selling author of A Discovery of Witches
“A fantastical extravaganza . . . A complex time-travelling, world-hopping caper with insistently epic stakes.”
—Steven Poole, The Guardian
“Pears’s prose is a pleasure to read . . . A dream of perfection in beautiful language . . . A compelling narrative; switching from one [storyline] to another means we are constantly in a state of suspense . . . I was entirely captured.”
—Marion Halligan, The Sydney Morning Herald
“A many-layered narrative in which real and imagined worlds continually collide . . . Aficionados of fantasy fiction will find plenty here to relish.”
—Max Davidson, The Mail on Sunday
“The most striking thing about Pears’s writing—his plots and ideas are complex, but his style is simple and clear. . . . Fantastic fun and, in spite of its complexity, a swift read.”
—Bryan Applebaum, The Sunday Times
“Not so much a novel as a cornucopia of narratives. . . . As a novelist, Iain Pears doesn’t repeat himself, and he gives with a generous hand.”
—Andrew Taylor, The Spectator
“Extremely clever but, better than that, immensely entertaining . . . Pears almost seamlessly merges genres of fantasy, sci-fi, spy thriller, romance, and more.”
—Jaine Blackman, The Oxford Times
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Can't say enough good about it. If you like time travel, stories that revolve around powerful women, entertaining fantasies that also give you plenty to think about -- order it now and settle in for a truly great read.
What I liked about Arcadia is how the three worlds were mixed. Angela Meerson invents a way to explore an infinity of universes and accidentally creates a time machine. I guess we could have called it the "Accidental Time Machine" but that title is taken!
Angela is from a dystopian police state future. And she has to test her machine on herself and escape before her boss takes over with megalomaniac delusions of his own. She jumps, miscalculates and lands in 1936 Berlin. Ach!
What's interesting is how the main characters do something and then later in the story the same action is looked upon from a different view from another character later in the novel. It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to remember who was what and what they're seeing, but after a while of getting used to Mr. Pears' style, you just can't put the book down.
The book left open questions but perhaps they're better left unanswered. Loved the characterization of Rosalind, a shy teenager who somehow gets into a situation that is fearful and enjoyable at the same time.
Whereas from the brow of Professor Litten comes Angela's universe. And she can't turn it off!
Wild stuff. An unusual take on time travel, police states and a fantasy world of superstition and structured rules and rituals.
But it takes getting used to.
I had to actually take notes for the first half of the book to keep characters and timelines straight, but I'm very glad I didn't abandon the effort, since in the end this is an extremely satisfying read.