(Chris Adrian reads tonight at the Rendezvous at 7 pm, and then he and I will talk about his books, his life, and his influences. It's free.)
Every cell in Chris Adrian's body is engaged in a tireless battle against death. In his day job, his author bio informs us, he is both "a fellow in pediatric hematology-oncology at UCSF" and "a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School." When he's not saving children from death or studying the belief that the soul can survive death, he's writing about our struggle with mortality. His underrated debut novel, Gob's Grief, was about a fragile genius's attempts to build a machine to resurrect all the young men killed in the Civil War. His second book, The Children's Hospital, was a contemporary retelling of the biblical flood, complete with angels, with a hospital in place of the ark.
Adrian's new book, The Great Night, feels lighter—in the best way possible—than his other two novels. It breezes in at just under 300 pages, and while many of the characters are racked with grief, the book is a comedy in the classical Shakespearean sense, in that it ends with a beginning. The Great Night also lifts the mythological elements—the fairies—from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and drops them into Buena Vista Park in modern-day San Francisco. (It's important to note that while Titania, Puck, and the rest could have walked directly offstage from the play, the reader doesn't need to bring any prior experience with them to enjoy The Great Night; it stands on its own.) The fairies interact with three heartbroken humans, manipulating them, as magical creatures are known to do. Fans of Neil Gaiman would enjoy a tumble with this book, finding a familiar comfort in the beachhead between fantasy and reality.
But the most heartening thing about The Great Night is that Adrian focuses on one of the happiest ways humans do battle with death every day—which is a polite way of saying that the book is full of fucking.