There is so much to love about Tricia Sullivan’s strange, convoluted, humane, and playful imagination as it emerges in her fiction. One of the chief things I read her for is the sense I get that I have dropped into a work of fiction I could not ever hope to write. At times I read for comfort and familiarity, while at other times I want to open a door into a vision that shakes me and enthralls me and twists my mind into strange angles.
I am not even going to attempt to describe the plot. Instead I’ll quote the Gollancz copy:
A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world.
Occupy Me starts fast, with an almost urban fantasy vibe, and skews faster into something completely weird and wonderful and often very very funny. Sullivan uses a complex narrative structure through time, tense, and point-of-view switches to both propel the narrative forward and keep creating a recursive reflection back as you-the-reader begins to see how it all links up.
Every character, even the minor ones, are sharply delineated. Besides Pearl, I particularly loved the vet Alison who adapts to a strange situation with aplomb and grace. The descriptions of place are rich with vivid sensory detail. I was often struck by the beauty and luminosity of the prose. Sometimes the wild physics made sense to me with my limited physics background; sometimes I felt completely out of my depth; but it didn’t matter because the prose always carried me forward and the story is always grounded in Pearl’s quest as well as the perfectly human needs and motivations of the other characters.
I’m not a reviewer and honestly I don’t feel competent to write about this work in a way that will bring across its full splendour. If you like science fiction that is weird and wonderful and often very very funny, Occupy Me will fit the bill.
Here’s an excerpt from a post Sullivan wrote about the genesis of the ideas:
I was really afraid to move beyond what I’d written in the past. Most of my books are about consciousness, which is an ontological subject in its own way, but not the same kind of ontology as cosmology–or so I thought at the time. It’s not like I wanted to write space opera. I wanted to write stories that have their roots in some of the strangeness of modern physics.
I wanted to add a link to this recent review which goes into the science, the ontology, and the cosmology in a way I can’t and that really digs into how much Sullivan is doing in the novel.