readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

They Shall Begin Again – Giacomo Papi ***

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Not bad. From the brief description I’d read I was expecting a zombie novel, but the scenario pictured here is more like the resurrection at the Day of Judgement – except that there is no judgement.

An old man is found naked and creating a disturbance in a grocery store. The protagonist, a doctor who happens to be at the scene, gets him taken in to the hospital. After some investigation the authorities are flabbergasted to find that the man’s story seems to be true: he is who he says he is – and he died thirty years ago.

But the elderly man is just the beginning. The dead are rising up, just as they were when they died, but in fresh, vigorous new bodies. Not just the recently-deceased but ancient ancestors are turning up, and they’re arriving in exponentially-increasing waves. The situation soon cannot be kept under wraps, and an emergency conference is called to try to find a solution to the problem: the Earth cannot sustain all the people who ever lived, simultaneously.

The doctor leaves his pregnant girlfriend to attend the conference, against her protests. And while they’re separated, civilization may come to a point of collapse.

The translation here is not top-quality; there are quite a few problems with it. Many of the technical errors I’m submitting to the publisher; so hopefully it’ll soon be cleaned up a bit. However, it’s immeasurably better than the other translated Italian book I recently tried reading from Open Road. The author’s voice definitely comes through, and there are some lovely, absorbing passages here. In tone (though not style), it even occasionally reminded me of Jose Saramago’s Blindness/Seeing duology. (Interestingly, this book seems, on the face of it, to have a lot in common with Saramago’s novel “Death with Interruptions,” which I haven’t read.)

However, the book also has some weaknesses. The major plot events seem to occur more for the sake of their symbolism than out of a convincingly argued logical sequence of events. The ending is remarkably inconclusive – again, with an event picked for symbolism rather than actually tying up the plot points. (The whole thing with the dead deciding to organize and slaughter pregnant women was what really didn’t convince me; it just seemed to be about the concept of the dead versus the living, rather than working from an idea of how a whole bunch of unconnected displaced persons would really behave. And ending the book with a birth and the whole “the end is a beginning” bit was nice and all – but the actual plot wasn’t wrapped up.)

The book overall fits in nicely with other recent entries into the post-apocalyptic genre – I belong to a post-apocalyptic book club, and will be recommending it to them.

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