Through a lens, and in remiss of time and space, four lives are lived in parallel. Four lives come together, and regardless of sense and argument, come to acknowledge their paradox: they live together, separately.
One lives as brother to the Count of Anjou, the next as a poor working boy, a third as a girl trapped by the unsaid, and the last, a machine. As an otherworldy device ticks long cycles on a distant bookend of humanity, a lost comrade contemplates, and these immiscible consciousnesses coalesce, with abstracted struggles converging on an immense level of conspiracy. Convoluted co-existence is examined in Paralysis Paradox by Stewart Sanders.
The first and most obvious note about Paralysis Paradox is that it shouldn’t make sense, but it does. The book is less concerned with a perfectly explained, self-contained, logical plot as much as the unusual ideas behind it and the characters’ parts in a puzzle that they only, together, can manage to see a larger part of; the rest a massive whole.
The point of the book is mystery and larger mysteries, but it doesn’t deliver a whole answer, and that which it does answer is wrapped in layers of detail. This is a narrative built through the bending together of time, space, and character experience, and anyone who might feel they might have difficult parsing something this complex will probably find the book a challenge. For those who love the idea of a semi-tangible mystery, the book delivers few solid clues, but compelling ones.
It is an unusual weave of plot threads and timelines that have to be viewed as both simultaneous and chronological, which is hardly simple to begin with. The book is cerebral sci-fi through and through, but not lazy or inattentive, and there is a rhythm to get into to get along with the book.
The characters all remain distinct and interesting, if fairly typical and occasionally slightly flat, as much as, for example, a machine and a member of royalty can be.
Similarly, the frequent jumps between characters is extremely confusing at first, and gives little time for new characters to really become as fleshed out and properly conceptualized as they might have been, despite their diversity and unique qualities. Thankfully, for every slight blemish there remains many more unique, engaging ideas to hold onto.
Paralysis Paradox is the first book of the Paradox Consecution series and currently the sole installment, with a sequel planned for summer this year. It is difficult to imagine where the series might be headed, as this part, for all the aspects it does acknowledge and focus on, leaves few obvious points to lead on, standing quite solidly on its own.
If the book’s sui generis ideas and delivery are continued into the next part, it should be one to watch out for. As is, this book is bizarre and rough around the edges, but has a veritable smorgasbord of content for the right reader who is willing and able to think outside the usual boxes.