A novel about a Manichean struggle that goes on in a 1960's British town. The novel follows the lives of several people in the town, especially their childhoods, and tracks them as they develop and intertwine. The tone of the novel is very odd. On the one hand, it is definitely Christian. There are angels, divine spells (Flame Strike, level 5), and when a holy apparition is questioned as to why bad things happen, it goes with the standard Christian Chewbacca Defense (i.e. free will). On the other hand, just about everything in the novel is dry and/or depressing. For example, there is Matty, the holy character who takes up about 50% of the pages. Matty is multiply disfigured, socially isolated, border-line retarded, has difficulty speaking, and is without friends or family. His religion, which seems to be the factually correct one in the story, is ultra-ultra-Old-Testament and completely alien to any modern sensibility. And he is the cheerful part of the book! The other main characters include a haggard and disgraced elderly pederast, the ineffectual and acid tongued owner of a failing book store, and the Twins of Evil. The twins are intelligent, rich, and beautiful, but also kind of satanic-nihilists. The smarter twin turns to terrorism, while the more physical one starts with duckling-murder, moves to petty-violent crime, and then moves to non-petty violent crime. She also dabbles in a sort of mouldering witch-craft. So, none of the characters are very likable, and the story as a whole doesn't try very hard to draw you along. There are parts that are very readable, but they're certainly not in the first 100 pages, and they're usually broken up by rather more dull sections.
To this list of difficulties I would add that the novel can be more than a bit difficult to understand. Part of it is that I'm not British, and so I don't have a very deep understanding of the differences between Poms and Australians. Part of it is just that the times and diction are a bit different. For example, at one point the book seller tells his male friend to believe his wife, since "she has more bosom than you". This is supposed to be this really serious accidental insult, something that might actually cause a libel suit? And as best as I can figure, the book seller was just implying that his friend was somewhat feminine. There are also a number of spots through out the book, where it seems like the author is saying two contradictory things, and you have to kind of back track and figure out which word in the sentence has a non-modern meaning. For example:
"His sexuality - and this was brilliantly perceived by his fellows - was in direct proportion to his unattractiveness. He was high-minded; and his fellows considered this to be his darkest sin."
On first reading, I took the first sentence to mean that he was an unattractive horn-dog, but then the second sentence contradicts that. The first sentence is actually just saying he has a large cock-volume. So that was fairly easy to figure out, but there are other cases where it is not so clear, and all you can tell is that the first reading maybe doesn't quite make sense?
Hmm, so, what does the novel have going for it? For one, it is well written. Despite occasionally having to puzzle over it, there are some beautiful passages, and it expresses a wide variety of interesting imagery and experience. The Old Testament experiences are presented with a suitable strangeness, and it's very much like having something from Ezkiel transposed to a post-War Britain. The book is also very emo in certain parts, which I like, and it goes deep into several different types or religious or interior experiences. The book also has a happy ending, in that the alien-old-testament-angels seem to achieve their plan?