First, go visit the site and read the synopsis for A Life Transparent.
Second, keep in mind that I suck at writing book reviews. But here goes.
Creepy, bizarre, dark, and yet uncannily familiar, A Life Transparent indelibly links the reader with an experience we have all felt at one time or another: that our lives are stuck in mediocrity, we are ignored, and no one is listening. Author Todd Keisling lays out a story about a man who feels he is disappearing, quite literally. Packed with a sicko twist and wonderful double-ententre character names, the writing is detailed and deliberate and easy to read. After Donovan Candle, our main character, begins to slip into an alternate universe run by a powerful, Kafka-esque manipulator, his wife is kidnapped and he snaps out of his grindingly dull routine.
Running through the streets at night escaping terrifying goblins that he isn’t sure are figments of his imagination, Donovan encounters aspects of his own personality that he didn’t even know existed. Keisling uses wonderful descriptors (grey sludge, flickering, monochrome) and fabulous character names (Yawnings, Dullington, Guffin, Candle) to create what we don’t even know is a dream or science fiction in a story whose tone is both terrifying and compelling.
Rarely do I find myself re-living parts, scenes, or senses from a book as often as I did in the days I was reading ALT. It stuck with me. Somehow the language bullied its way through my skin, so that I was uncomfortably living with the characters–good and bad and ambiguous. Speaking of ambiguity, we as readers may find that we are not quite trusting the characters that we are led to believe we should be trusting. This is a theme that undergirds the novel.
It’s hard to not crack up at some of the funky scifi stuff out there today, as a non-scifi loyalist. Hey, I like my superheros and Avatar-like stuff just as much as the next guy. But sometimes it takes itself too seriously. I did not expect ALT to creep up on me like it did with its dark creativity, solid writing, compelling characters, and salient themes carried throughout the story.