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Writing a plot synopsis of this novel would be as unproductive as it would be insane. Nobody should have to go through this one twice. Not to say it was a bad ride; on the contrary, reading this work is like spending 10 hours in a funhouse. Simarily, the experience of it is the thrill, but afterwards all you remember is your wobbly knees.
Categorically, it's a time travel adventure, I guess. Most of it takes place in the Dickensian London of 1810 and is filled with colorful gypsies, disfigured beggars, a heroine who dresses as a boy, plus sorcerers who walk around on stilts or spring shoes, a shapechanger named Dog Faced Joe (or Amenophis Fikee, depending on what crowd you're running with), and quasi-anonymous guys who stroll the gas-lit streets whistling old Beatles tunes. Our 20 th century hero starts out as Brendan Doyle but later (or earlier, depending which way you see the time stream) fills in the historical shoes of an obscure poet named William Ashbless. Coleridge shows up as a character; so does Lord Byron, but as a ka , which is a programmable duplicate created by a magician. Doyle is sick or suffering from various wounds most of the time and even has to face his own ka in an adversarial position. He also jaunts off to somewhere in the 1600s where “nobody brushed their teeth or took baths” (Ace Books, ISBN 0441004016, 7 th edition, 1997, p.231), and inadvertently obstructs an assassination attempt on King Charles, then gets shanghaied to Cairo for another set of adventures involving the slaughter of the Mamelukes by Mohammed Ali. What is astounding is that given a plot like a three-dimensional chess game, that these characters remain vivid and interesting.
This is not heavy reading, but fun, fanciful stuff. Ponder for a moment Doyle's mindbending discovery when he realizes he'll live his life out in the 1800s:
Think about it for a moment.
Now, if you're not smiling, this book is definitely not for you!