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Mr. Eternity Hardcover – August 9, 2016
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"[A] sharp, inventive and compassionate novel . . . to be savored and heeded." - San Francisco Chronicle
"Mr. Thier’s dizzying time-travels will inevitably call to mind David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” and the danger of such books is that they tend to grow solemn and sanctimonious as they peer into the future. Happily, “Mr. Eternity” remains playful even as it relates catastrophe." - The Wall Street Journal
"With symbolism and analogy, surrealism and fantasy, Thier deftly reflects on and explores the human condition through ‘the lavender light and sweet scented dust of history.’ Erudite. Imaginative. A work to be read slowly and savored." - starred review, Kirkus Reviews
"Thier uses his deathless protagonist to chart the rise and fall of the American empire, and also those certainties--love, trade--that afflict every age . . . The moral imagination behind Defoe’s adventures rivals that of his namesake, begging comparison to the best literature has to offer." - Publishers Weekly
"Thier’s story lines entwine in Faulknerian brilliance . . . An enchanting, humorous, and visionary experience." - Booklist
"Only a writer as wickedly smart as Aaron Thier would think to write such a twisted and wild story about Florida and climate change and time-battered Daniel Defoe; only Aaron Thier could pull it all off with such aplomb and in such gleeful and spiny language. Mr. Eternity will be sizzling in my brain for a long time." - Lauren Groff, author of FATES AND FURIES
"The end of the world has never been so much fun as in Aaron Thier’s brilliant cavalcade of a novel. Careening back- and forward while staying peacefully centered, offering absurdities and heartbreaks in equal measure, Mr. Eternity is a moving exploration of our past, present, and future discombobulations." - Daniel Handler, author of WHY WE BROKE UP and WE ARE PIRATES
"The combination of vivid inventiveness at the sentence level, and wide-ranging vistas across the centuries, makes this novel a joy to read. Daniel Defoe himself would have loved this book." - Kim Stanley Robinson, author of THE MARS TRILOGY
"Aaron Thier's Mr. Eternity is shrewd, smart, and funny." - Elizabeth Kolbert, author of THE SIXTH EXTINCTION
"An absolutely phenomenal book, a comedy of everything. Astonishing." - Michael Hofmann, critic and author of WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?: SELECTED ESSAYS
"The books reminds me of a modern Candide . . . Read this book, it's awesome." - Ryan Holiday, "Reading Recommendation" Newsletter
"[A]n amazing work of staggering genius . . . Aaron Thier has reinvented the comic novel, reimagined the picaresque, written the Don Quixote for our time -- one that features not a mad idealist but a cynical wit, appropriate for this century and the ones (if any) to follow." - Betsy Burton, "Books & Beats," KUER
"Clever, smart, and brilliantly comic as it deals with our humanity, our resilient spirit, and the tremendous challenges that demand our cooperative attention . . . This genre-bending page-turner is a blast to read!" - Ed Conklin, Chaucer's Books, Santa Barbara, CA
"Thier likes messin' with historicity, as did Faulkner, and he uses crisp precise wit, as did (Donald) Barthelme, to mess with it." - Padgett Powell
About the Author
Aaron Thier is the author of the novels Mr. Eternity, a finalist for the 2017 Thurber Prize for American Humor, and The Ghost Apple, a semifinalist for the 2015 Thurber Prize. A regular contributor to The Nation and a graduate of Yale University and the MFA program at The University of Florida, Thier received a 2016 NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing. He lives in Great Barrington, MA.
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This is a story told over the span of 1000 years, connected by a single thread: Daniel Defoe. It is a story told from different perspectives in 2016, 1560, 2200, 1750, and 2500. It is all really the same story with different people playing the roles over and over at different points in time. The stories weave through each other’s across time and eventually all blend together.
The story is that of Daniel Defoe searching for Anna Gloria. Defoe might be a madman, a huckster, or genuine, but he is himself. Each story has its own nuggets of wisdom to impart. They make you stop and think about your own place in the world, which role you are playing, and who you are (yourself.)
Its form is a series of cuts between five narratives set in different times, with one common character (who is not the main character, and happens to have lived for a thousand years). It's not really science fiction (certainly not in the laser-alien sense), but two of the narratives are set in the future.
So what is it about? The thousand-year scope and common character let the author explore the relationship between the past, the present, and the future. The book can be funny or playful: people who live hundreds of years later misunderstand what happened in the past, or a word or a concept changes its meaning to accommodate a changing world. Sometimes it's sad or nostalgic: the future is not always better than the past, even though the past is often terrible, and people make the same mistakes over and over--slavery, greed, tribalism, narrowness. These include mistakes we know they will make because we have seen the future. But it's a humanistic book. The characters are trying to live with the knowledge that the world changes, sometimes for the worse. In each time, there's always joy.
It could easily have been a dull book, or far too clever. But Aaron Thier's writing bears his ambitions. He is not trying to show off, although you can't help but be impressed. His sentences are exquisite, and the humor and wonder are balanced just right. The pacing makes the book very enjoyable to read in bursts or all at once. It does reward careful reading.
I treasured this book, and I'm sorry it's over, but I look forward to his next one.
Bottom line: not the book for me.
UPDATE: A friend who had read this book as well and loved it convinced me to give it another try, and I'm glad I did. Typically, I read fiction only at night and non-fiction during the day. Usually I get a chapter or two in and that's it unless it grabs me. That works with most fiction, but not with this book - you have to read it in large chunks of pages or you will get lost fast.
The author tells the story through 5 different first person narrators across 1,000 years of history. One character in particular keeps popping up again and again, Daniel Defoe. It would be very difficult to describe this book other than to say that if you like unique stories, this is one that you will enjoy. The author tackles huge themes - love, climate change, religion, history, empires, and much more while telling the story of a man who just won't die. The end of the book is great and its well worth the read.
If you buy this book and sit down to read it, don't stop until you have read the first 50-60 pages. It's a unique experience and unlike anything you have read before - Recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
For the unique voices Thier crafts, for the off-kilter humor, for an indulgent time traveling romp.Read more