Perhaps the biggest mystery in The Manual of Detection is what kind of book is it. Is it steampunk? Michael Moorcock certainly thinks so in his review for the Guardian (see below). Other reviews treat it as a noir detective story, a surrealist art piece, or fantasy. The New Yorker called it an allegory. Yet others compare it to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Some see it as ironic, while other never mention that aspect of it. At the end of the day, it is was the reader decides it to be. Certainly, the reviews suggest it is well worth a read regardless of category and it has been added to my to-read list.
Reminiscent of imaginative fiction from Jorge Luis Borges to Jasper Fforde yet dazzlingly original, The Manual of Detection marks the debut of a prodigious young talent. Charles Unwin toils as a clerk at a huge, imperious detective agency located in an unnamed city always slick with rain. When Travis Sivart, the agency’s most illustrious detective, is murdered, Unwin is suddenly promoted and must embark on an utterly bizarre quest for the missing investigator that leads him into the darkest corners of his soaking, somnolent city. What ensues is a noir fantasy of exquisite craftsmanship, as taut as it is mind- blowing, that draws readers into a dream world that will change what they think about how they think.
You can find an excerpt on the book’s official site, along with numerous other tidbits about the book, many of which look a bit spoilery. Warning: the site plays music until you turn it off, so mute before you do there.
A sampling of the many different perspectives on this one.
- Review by Tia Nevitt
- Review form the Guardian
- Review from Strange Horizons
- Review from Fantasy Book Critic
Given the different viewpoints on this book, I’d be very interested in comments from anyone who has read it. Thanks!