After James (Paperback)

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For fans of Joshua Cohen and Ben Lerner, After James captures the dystopian strangeness of our current world.

A neuroscientist walks out of her life and isolates herself in the woods, intending to blow the whistle on a pharmaceutical company and its creativity drug gone wrong. A recently orphaned graduate school dropout is hired as a “literary detective” to decode the work of a mysterious Internet poet who writes about disappearances and murders with an inexplicably precise knowledge of private details. And a virologist discovers her identity has been stolen by a conceptual artist in whose stories someone always goes missing. Ali, James, and Celia exist in worlds where implausibilities that once belonged to science fiction, ancient superstition, or dystopian visions are real or impending.  

Set in great cities, remote regions, and deadly borderlands, Michael Helm’s groundbreaking novel, After James, is told in three parts, each gesturing toward a type of genre fiction: the gothic horror, the detective novel, and the apocalyptic. Science and art become characters, and secrets form, hidden in the codes of genetic sequences, poems, and the patterns of political violence. Part to part, elements repeat—otherworldly weather, disturbing artwork, buried corpses—and amid these echoes, a larger mystery arises, one that joins artifice to nature, and fiction to reality, delivering us into the troubling wonder of the present world.

About the Author

Michael Helm was born in Saskatchewan. His most recent novel, Cities of Refuge, is a national bestseller in Canada and was a Rogers Writers' Trust Ficiton Award finalist, a Giller Prize nominee, and a Globe and Mail and Now magazine Best Book of the Year. His earlier novels are The Projectionist, a finalist for the Giller Prize and the Trillium Award; and In the Place of Last Things, a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book. His writings on fiction, poetry, and the visual arts have appeared in North American newspapers and magazines, including Brick, where he serves as an editor. He teaches at York University in Toronto.

Praise For…

In After James, Michael Helm brings his acute, soulful intelligence to bear on the question of how we live now. He powerfully evokes the isolation embedded in our relentless hyper-connectedness. He gives us his lonely, disappearing people through a dazzling and intricate array of fictional lenses. The global and the local collapse and expand again. Language reveals its particulate secrets. Patterns are noted (or imagined). He shows us the poignancy in our human need to make sense and the distortions that come from our endless desire for answers.

— Dana Spiotta, author of INNOCENTS AND OTHERS

By turns harrowing and memorable, Helm’s tales resonate in an age of Internet trolling and corrupt pharmaceutical companies, in which art and science blur ethical boundaries.

— Booklist

Helm's execution is so masterful that it made for one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've had in years . . . After James is a new high-water mark in Helm's already remarkable oeuvre, and solidifies him as one of Canada's most interesting and challenging novelists.

— Quill and Quire, Starred

In this kaleidoscopic novel the real and the unreal spiral and collide to reveal just how thin the line between truth and fiction really is. Combining elements or horror, mystery, and sci-fi, Helm has crafted a literary wormhole. Let yourself fall through. You won’t be the same on the other side.

— Emily Ballaine, Green Apple Books

After James reminds me of the best of Hawthorne and Poe—Helm crafts a masterful novel with characters whose realities melt around them. Unreliable narrators are child’s play to him: what he creates so vividly are unreliable worlds, stitched together with the creeping assertion that the objects of our perception may be as deceptive as our minds.

— Tristan Charles, Parnassus Books

Helm’s triptych of characters haunted by menacing intelligences that seem to read their minds at every turn is so menacingly intelligent that I finished it looking over my shoulder to if Helm was reading my mind. And then I turned back to the first page to start reading again.   

— Tom Nissley, Phinney Books

Michael Helm’s dazzlingly creative work almost defies categorization. A novel in three distinct, seemingly (or not) unrelated parts, told from different points of view by unreliable narrators with waking dreams. I reveled in the language and the mystery and let it wash over me as I did Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

— Marion Abbott, Mrs. Dalloways

After James is a twenty-first century master class in the use of genre to explore our ever-changing, and ever-slipping, grasp on reality. Helm draws on a base of knowledge broad and deep, from etymology to neuropharmaceuticals, from poetry to cybersecurity, to craft three murkily connected tales that point toward the best kind of cosmic disquiet: beyond comprehension and just out of sight.

— Christopher Phipps, DIESEL, A Bookstore in Oakland

After James is a weird, fantastical read which combines elements of science fiction, mystery, and horror and creates a wholly original and expertly crafted novel and easily one of my favorite reads of 2016.

— LitReactor

Dense, fascinating, and genre-defying . . . [After James] not only raises profound questions about the nature of life and imagination in the modern world, but actually dares to answer them.

— The Literary Review

Product Details
ISBN: 9781941040416
ISBN-10: 1941040411
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: September 13th, 2016
Pages: 368
Language: English