Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author.
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over.
And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.
Tricia Sullivan returns to the genre with a book that will define the conversation within the genre and will show what it is capable of for years to come. This is the best book yet from a writer of exceedingly rare talent who is much loved in the genre world.
I always enjoy that moment of trepidation that arrives whenever I’m reading an author’s work for the very first time. I’ve not read any of Tricia Sullivan’s other novels, so this was new territory for me.
Pearl, an angel who lives amongst us, is an intriguing creation. Innocent in many respects, but world weary in many others, her view of humanity shifts on a minute by minute basis. There is an unaffected air of otherworldliness that makes Pearl consistently fascinating character. She is captivated by the universe and all of its wonders. Every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant, attracts her attention. Her inquisitiveness and determination feel almost palpable.
There are also a handful of chapters written from the perspective of the doctor whose body is being randomly possessed by a killer. Sullivan does a fantastic job of capturing the sense of growing panic and confusion this individual experiences. I loved how the writing perfectly describes his feelings of impending dread.
At the most basic level, I suppose Occupy Me could simply be viewed as a huge globe-trotting chase; certainly the action spans multiple continents. You would be wrong to dismiss it as just that however. In fact, if it is a simple, straightforward read you’re looking for, I would probably give this book a miss. This novel is a wonderfully mind-bending work. There is a satisfyingly complex narrative that explores all manner of different theories and ideas. As Pearl learns more and more about the nature of existence and all that it entails, this gives Tricia Sullivan the opportunity to pick apart a plethora of subjects. Everything from global politics and the definition of free will, to multiple realities and causality are discussed. If you are looking for genuinely thought provoking fiction, then you need look no further.
All this going on and I haven’t even mentioned the most important briefcase that has ever ever existed. No spoilers on that one, I’ll let you try and unravel that particular conundrum yourself.
Reading is such a subjective, personal thing that I suspect when presented with Occupy Me, different readers will pick up on entirely different themes. They are going to come to differing conclusions about what underlying messages may be held within. There is a line in the novel that sums up this literary adventure perfectly
This is so not what I imagined it would be
I rather like the idea of reading without a safety net, and Occupy Me feels exactly like that. I realised on more than one occasion I had no inkling where the plot was going to head next. That little frisson of excitement while devouring fiction is always a joy.
This is the sort of book that I think I need to sit down and talk to a group of people about after they’ve finished reading it. I’m burning with curiosity to see what other readers will think. If nothing else, I’m sure it will prompt debate.
In hindsight I’m not even sure I have the adequate vocabulary to do a review of this book justice. There is so many different ideas and concepts that I could waffle on about indefinitely. This is truly subtle, masterful writing that has so much to offer. All I can do is recommend that you give Occupy Me a try and see what you think. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m a sucker for fiction that forces a reader to think.
Occupy Me is published by Gollancz and is available now.