I am reviewing my own personal copy of this book, of my own free will. :-)
I guess you could call the POV of this story an "unreliable narrator," although it's a little bit of a stretch. I say that because there's a lot of mythology surrounding the actual Epiphany Machine, so most of the backstory is theory, and not rooted in any sort of fictionized factual information. I also enjoyed seeing our real history woven into this parallel universe. A kind of 'what-if' scenario, if someone had done what Adam Lyon had.
Past that, I found the characters to be wholly intriguing.
Ventner is our protagonist, although he's no hero. We learn about his world, which is ours, except it's tainted by a machine that gives you a clue about one aspect of your personality. Nobody really knows how the machine gets it's information. Is it from a divine being? Does it work based on some sort of ESP? Or is Adam Lyon using his own kind of "cold reading," to make it work? Again, no one knows. There are many theories, and we get to read about several over the course of the book.
We also learn, through Ventner's experiences, several perspectives of it's usage. Both of his parents have experienced a prediction, and they both associated with Adam Lyon. He feels distant from both of them in different ways, and that makes him curious enough to find out more.
He becomes Adam's protégé, so much more becomes clear after that point. At the same time, Ventner's life is made up of stilted acquaintances, friends, and lovers. (okay, lover). He begins to interview the regulars at Adam's "Salon" nights, and receive more information about the machine, the relationships between the people around him, and his parents.
“You’re coaxing people to talk about what the epiphany machine has meant to their lives. That’s important, and nobody wants to talk about what’s important. The only way to get people to talk about something important is to leave them with no other option.”
As time progresses, events that have happened in our timeline also happen in Ventner's parallel universe. We see them through their eyes, and although they usually end up in a similar fashion, the impetus may be much different. Some of the chapters are quite disturbing, but I found them fascinating. To see those events through the eyes of the people involved, after using the Epiphany Machine... it was like understanding why it happened.
As the story climaxes, Ventner does something he cannot
undo. He's riddled with indecision and doubt, and a TON of guilt. It lives with him until the very end of the story, and the book goes on a roller-coaster from there as well.
I could now claim the distinction of having been definitively rejected by both of my parents, one in infancy and one in adulthood—a stronger indication than anything else in my life that I was marked for the great, special destiny of which I desultorily dreamed.
Mind you, it's not the fast-moving kind, nor a kiddie ride - no, it's the kind that makes you queasy. You wonder if you should ride it again. But you know you should continue. There's a need to go on, because not
finishing is worse than letting the dizzyness take over.
Four and a half "He liked Dylan better" stars.