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After James
Cover of After James
After James
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For fans of Joshua Cohen and Ben Lerner, After James captures the dystopian strangeness of our current world.

A neuroscientist walks out of her life and isolates herself in the woods, intending to blow the whistle on a pharmaceutical company and its creativity drug gone wrong. A recently orphaned graduate school dropout is hired as a "literary detective" to decode the work of a mysterious Internet poet who writes about disappearances and murders with an inexplicably precise knowledge of private details. And a virologist discovers her identity has been stolen by a conceptual artist in whose stories someone always goes missing. Ali, James, and Celia exist in worlds where implausibilities that once belonged to science fiction, ancient superstition, or dystopian visions are real or impending.

Set in great cities, remote regions, and deadly borderlands, Michael Helm's groundbreaking novel, After James, is told in three parts, each gesturing toward a different fiction genre: the gothic horror, the detective novel, and the apocalyptic. Science and art become characters, and secrets form, hidden in the codes of genetic sequences, poems, and the patterns of political violence. Part to part, elements repeat―otherworldly weather, disturbing artwork, buried corpses―and amid these echoes, a larger mystery arises, one that joins artifice to nature and fiction to reality, delivering us into the troubling wonder of the present world.

For fans of Joshua Cohen and Ben Lerner, After James captures the dystopian strangeness of our current world.

A neuroscientist walks out of her life and isolates herself in the woods, intending to blow the whistle on a pharmaceutical company and its creativity drug gone wrong. A recently orphaned graduate school dropout is hired as a "literary detective" to decode the work of a mysterious Internet poet who writes about disappearances and murders with an inexplicably precise knowledge of private details. And a virologist discovers her identity has been stolen by a conceptual artist in whose stories someone always goes missing. Ali, James, and Celia exist in worlds where implausibilities that once belonged to science fiction, ancient superstition, or dystopian visions are real or impending.

Set in great cities, remote regions, and deadly borderlands, Michael Helm's groundbreaking novel, After James, is told in three parts, each gesturing toward a different fiction genre: the gothic horror, the detective novel, and the apocalyptic. Science and art become characters, and secrets form, hidden in the codes of genetic sequences, poems, and the patterns of political violence. Part to part, elements repeat―otherworldly weather, disturbing artwork, buried corpses―and amid these echoes, a larger mystery arises, one that joins artifice to nature and fiction to reality, delivering us into the troubling wonder of the present world.

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About the Author-
  • Michael Helms was born in Saskatchewan. His novel Cities of Refuge was a national bestseller in Canada and was a Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Award finalist, a Giller Prize nominee, and a Globe and Mail and Now magazine Best Book of the Year. His earlier novels are The Projectionist, a finalist for the Giller Prize and the Trillium Award; and In the Place of Last Things, a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book. His writings on fiction, poetry, and the visual arts have appeared in North American newspapers and magazines, including Brick, where he serves as an editor. He teaches at York University in Toronto.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 18, 2016
    An experimental drug that enhances creativity propels the intricate plot of this ambitious but lackluster postmodern novel. Separated into three tangentially related sections, the story first follows Ali, the drug’s creator, who has retreated to rural Canada after learning that “Alph” induces suicide in its test subjects. The second section relocates to Rome, where Ali’s father has enlisted a type of literary detective, one of a pair of titular Jameses, to track down Ali by interpreting poems written by one such test subject. Instead of predictably combining the two threads, the story turns to Cecilia, a survivor of a miscarriage and the daughter of the subject likely to be the poet. Structurally, Cecilia and Ali are brought face-to-face too late; the narrative doesn’t fully cohere, though opacity and inscrutability seem to be part of the intent. The novel has flashes of brilliance, but they are few and far between, leaving the reader to wander about in a darkness that seems unnecessary. A formidable mind is on display in these pages, but it obscures the story’s heart. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group.

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