Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Down and Out In Purgatory by Tim Powers - Book Review

From the publisher: What do you do if the man you’ve vowed to kill dies before you can kill him?
In college, Tom Holbrook worshipped Shasta DiMaio from afar, but she married the arrogant John Atwater—and Atwater eventually murdered her.

All that’s left for Tom is revenge. He has devoted the rest of his life to finding Atwater and killing him—but when he finally finds him, Atwater is in a bag in the Los Angeles County morgue.

How do you kill a man who has already died?

Down and Out in Purgatory, by Tim Powers, is a quick read of a novella that details the Tom Holbrook's quest for revenge on the man who killed the woman he loved. Unfortunately, Tom discovers that John Atwater is already dead. He is left with two options: give up his obsession with revenge, or follow Atwater to the afterlife and try for revenge there. He chooses the latter, and what follows is trip around purgatory and a brief examination of what is really important in life.

Tim Powers typically takes the everyday and peels back the layers, mixing in magic and/or the supernatural to add an unexpected depth. In the case of Down and Out, he looks at what is important after a person dies. There are quite a few interesting ideas presented in this story, including the structure of the afterlife and over-easy ghosts. Powers also touches on themes of loss, obsession, the value of life, and others. Because the book is so short, these don't get the examination they might otherwise have in a full-length novel. However, the length helps in that reading a Powers novel often requires a lot of persistence due to the denseness of ideas he generally packs into his stories.

Overall, I would recommend Down and Out in Purgatory. Fans of Tim Powers will enjoy another chance to visit his creations, while new fans will find this a great introduction to his style.

I received a preview copy of this book from Subterranean Press in exchange for an honest review.

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