The Great Chain of Unbeing by Andrew Crumey - review by Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts

Reality Bites

The Great Chain of Unbeing


Dedalus 338pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

Andrew Crumey’s new book is a quasi-novel built out of connected short stories. It’s something for which we English have no specific term, but for which German critics have probably coined an impressively resonant piece of nomenclature (Kurzgeschichtenverkettung, maybe?). It’s as good an example of the form as I know.

Crumey, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, understands that the foundations of reality are not solid building blocks logically assembled but weird juxtapositions, spooky entanglements and counterintuitive unsuccessive causes and effects. His literary imagination blends science-fictional, magic-realist and mundane-realist elements in equal measure, not from caprice but because on the most fundamental level that’s how he thinks the universe is most accurately represented.

It’s an approach that has resulted in an extraordinarily inventive, intellectual and engaging series of novels. These, though, have proved too uncategorisable to win Crumey the esteem he very patently merits. Mobius Dick (2004), perhaps his best novel, is set in that dependable science fiction stand-by, a Britain

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