by Andrez Bergen
Set in a vague, Dickensian hereafter, Andrez Bergen’s second novel, 100 Years of Vicissitude, is a compelling read that shows a maturity in writing only hinted at in its predecessor, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. Where the prior novel relied heavily on gimmicks and included so many coded references to great moments in pop culture that an appendix was provided to try to keep track of them all, the new novel is more dreamlike and manages to sustain an elegiac mood throughout its 268 pages.
Wolram E. Deaps, the corrupt millionaire/villain who was killed off at the end of Bergen’s prior novel, is back, this time not fully understanding where (or when) he is, reluctantly going along for the ride of his afterlife with Kohana, a ghostly geisha. She is also dead, having lived through 100 years of turbulent Japanese history and determined to show the highlights to Deaps.
Along the way, we are treated to visits to pre- and post-World War Two Tokyo, as Kohana shows Deaps events from her life that coincide with major events in Japan. The firebombing of Nanking plays a role, but it’s not all tragedy, as we also attend a Sumo wrestling match and even learn a little bit about Marvel comics of the 1960s and what it was like to be a boy in late 20th century Australia.
Sound interesting? It is! Once you start reading 100 Years of Vicissitude, I guarantee you’ll have a hard time putting it down. My only complaint is that the beautiful Japanese characters sprinkled throughout are not translated for those of us who can’t read the language!
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