April 23, 2015

Book Review: "Metamorphosis," by Nicholas Mosley

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Metamorphosis, by Nicholas Mosley

By Nicholas Mosley
Dalkey Archive Press
Reviewed by Chris Schahfer

Apparently, Nicholas Mosley has been at it since the '50s, and has had two big brushes with prominence: 1990's much-lauded Hopeful Monsters and 1968's novel-in-stories Impossible Object. I say "apparently" because I'd never heard of the guy until recently; I was browsing Chicago's massive Harold Washington Library, as I often do, and I found this among the new releases. Since I liked both the title and cover, and since it was published by Dalkey Archive, I decided to give it a go.

With so many good things having been said about the aforementioned earlier novels, I'm willing to accept that Mosley and I got off on the wrong foot. There was a good novel at the heart of Metamorphosis, but Mosley's focus was off, and it threw the whole affair for a loop. From the ol' conceptual point of view, this is great stuff, focusing on a search for the godlike powers inside humanity via the God Particle. It's a little New Age, maybe, but the backdrop of science and quantum mechanics keep it from spinning off too far into that dread and unfortunate territory. Besides, Mosley backs himself up with a charming voice and a few fascinating and odd episodes like the beached whale toward the beginning.

But if Mosley avoids the dread New Age trap, he falls fully for the dread "novel that should've been a treatise" trap. He gets so lost in speculations about the future of the human race and explanations of quantum mechanics that he loses track of the story. Which is frustrating enough in and of itself, but even more frustrating when he gives us these wonderful scraps of story, like an episode about a man working on the Large Hadron Collider, that would've made for an excellent focus. I'm all about the novel of ideas, but you have to have some novel to back up your ideas, and that's just not happening here; the story's too underdeveloped, the characters too sketchy, for me to buy into it. Mosley's keyed into discussions worth discussing, and I'd be interested in checking out his earlier work, but I don't think this will go down as one of his better books.

Out of 10: 6.8

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Filed by Chris Schahfer at 7:00 AM, April 23, 2015. Filed under: Chris Schahfer | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |