Book Review: Something More Than Night

Lisa Barrow
3 min read
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Like any good pulp mystery, it begins with a murder. Some big shot gets bumped off and his fortune goes missing. A down-on-his-luck detective gets roped into the case, but the clues all lead to dead ends. Naturally, there’s a woman, a beautiful damsel with her own agenda, and she’s in too deep for her own good. As formulas go, it’s pretty solid; those old noir gems by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett employ it all the time, and remain vastly entertaining today.

But Ian Tregillis’ genre-warper
Something More Than Night isn’t quite your typical mystery. For one thing, it’s set in Heaven—a Thomas Aquinas-contrived celestial plane of breathtaking cosmological beauty and adamantine hierarchies—and the VIP who got himself rubbed out just happens to be the angel Gabriel. The investigation is headed up by fedora-wearing, rye whiskey-drinking semi-fallen angel Bayliss, who’s got to find the missing Jericho Trumpet before it falls into the wrong hands. And the dame with the flaming red hair is Molly Pruett, the human linchpin to an entire operation about which she understands nothing, having just been violently transmuted into a replacement angel and plunked down in a heavenly abode constructed of her own memories.

From there, the ball really gets rolling. Tregillis’ novel is serpentine, though adept pacing keeps it fast and readable. It’s evanescently poetic—really startlingly beautiful in parts—but the lofty diction is bolted onto a steadying framework of plot, character and suspense. Though its setting bears the trappings of religion, its language is one of science and philosophy and delivered in heaping mouthfuls of vocabulary—
Magisterium, nephilim, ontological, heiligenshein—that go down smoothly because they’re in service to Tregillis’ spot-on world-building. “Dull dim light, from IR to X-ray, oozed past me like the wax in a million-mile lava lamp while carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen nuclei did little do-si-dos about my toes,” Bayliss narrates nonchalantly as he searches the dead angel’s quarters. “Every bubble, every sizzle, every new nucleus, every photodissociation tagged something of interest to Gabriel.”

In writing this novel, Tregillis set himself a dizzying task, digging into philosophical arguments with a shovel made of worn-out gumshoe tropes. He delivers completely, providing a tightly constructed fantasy that flings itself forward with style and substance.
Something More Than Night is a fun romp of a serious book for people who like their fiction brainy, their attitudes enlightened and their endings very, very surprising.

Tregillis, besides being an enormously talented author, is a physicist at Los Alamos and lives in Santa Fe. Page One Bookstore has him in-store Saturday afternoon for the release of this fantastic new novel.

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