Thursday, April 10, 2008

Book Review: "Gods of Aberdeen"

Micah Nathan's 2005 debut novel, Gods of Aberdeen (Simon & Schuster) is one of many recent books seeking to slot itself into the 'literary thriller' genre. It may not be perfect, but it's better than most of the others.

Set on and near the rural Connecticut campus of Aberdeen College, this novel tells the rather improbable tale of Eric Dunne's extremely unconventional experiences as a college freshman. Eric Dunne, a 16-year old, orphaned, Latin prodigy from the slums of New Jersey catches the attention of famed Aberdeen scholar William Cade, who arranges for Eric to join his research team - other current and former students who live at Cade's home and work on translations, research and composition for his magna opus, some sort of massive history of the Middle Ages. But that project isn't the only thing Cade's assistants are up to ... led by the enigmatic Arthur Fitch, the boys are on the trail of the Philosopher's Stone and the immortality it will bring. You know that can't possibly end well.

If that sounds a little silly, it is. But Nathan manages to keep the book flowing, and while the flawless retrospective memory seemed a bit much (Eric is remembering the events years later, but somehow manages to recall everything in mind-boggling specificity) and the ending left something to be desired, I enjoyed Gods of Aberdeen for its examination (however far-fetched) of life at a small college, its depiction of the dangers of taking oneself too seriously, and its well-paced narrative.

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