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Archive for August 11th, 2008

The Tyrant

August 11th, 2008 | Category: Opinions

So, I finished reading The Tyrant by Michael Cisco and I couldn’t have been more impressed.  It’s the story of a brilliant fifteen-year-old girl, crippled by Polio, a graduate student revered for her work with ectoplasm. The stuff of the afterlife. Being so renowned, this girl, Ella, is invited to assist in an experiment that could change the way the world sees death. It’s an experiment with an epileptic man with unheard-of mental abilities. Through deep trances, he can project his consciousness not only from life into death, but even a state of possible life, the place before one lives or dies. For the experiment he descends into death, sending back both data and visual images displayed on lab monitors. Ella sees what he sees, and ultimately what he becomes. In life he’s a sad, cryptic man, but in death he’s brutal and vicious. He’s the Tyrant. He’s the man Ella loves. As for the experiment, it has unexpected and devastating consequences for the world of the living.

It’s difficult to fully describe this novel, it’s so different from anything of its kind. It’s not the kind of story that one can explain from point A to point B, it’s not full of characters who explain everything to the reader. At its core, it’s like riding a flaming tour bus through the world of human nightmares and beyond. It’s a little reminiscent of The Sound and the Fury in that it’s narrated in a stream of consciousness. Forget punctuation marks and neat paragraphs. Through his prose Cisco captures the essence of nightmares, he puts them into words. For a good section of the book Ella sees through the Tyrant’s eyes and we see through hers. We see things vivid and strange, beautiful and hideous. Scenes shift from place to place, just as they do in sleep, a flood of imagery. We see the fiery pits of Hell, people chained together, taunted and tortured ceaselessly by demons. We see cities in which the dead slaughter the living. This book isn’t a quick read, Cisco’s writing is so rich and decadent that one can’t devour it quickly. This book takes a little patience, it asks a certain amount of focus, but it’s definitely worth it.