THE SHORT VERSIONThis is an absolute fucking masterpiece and I loved every single page of it.THE LONG VERSIONThis book is gloriously written and incredibly dark - think Saramago's Blindness without the endless sentences, or Pontypool Changes Everything with a more linear narrative. The apocalyptic story elements alone would have made for a fulfilling novel, but here Marcus also explores issues of religion and religious persecution, family relationships, self-image, personal inaction, guilt and hope. And of course there's the theme of language, what it is and whether we can exist as people without it.I found the character of Esther utterly compelling and believable - the sullen, self-absorbed, know-it-all daughter, driven to exercise her intellectual power and perceived moral superiority over others. I would love to have heard this story also told from Esther's perspective (oh please let there be some kind of follow-up project, oh please, oh please). This is a story that stands up to lengthy and complex analysis, and I would like to think I will make the time to re-read this a few more times to really get my head around the issues. At the very least, I feel the need to talk it through with other people that have read it. It would make an ideal group read. As it is, knowing that I have yet to fully understand everything that I've read, I am still perfectly satisfied with the beautiful language and desolate imagery. The following is an excerpt I've copied as a great example of what you can expect if you read this book. It's not a spoiler (it's from only a couple of pages in), but I'll use the spoiler feature to fold it up. I'm a sucker for good formatting.The day my wife and I drove away, the electric should have failed. The phone should have died. The water should have thickened in our pipes.When the Esther toxicity was in high f lower, when it was no longer viable to endure proximity to our daughter, given the retching, the speech fever, the yellow tide beneath my wife’s skin, to say nothing of the bruising around my mouth, that day should have been darker, altogether blackened by fire.That day should have been visibly stained at the deepest levels of air, broken open, sucking people into oblivion. The neighborhood should have been vacuum-sealed, with people reduced to crawling figures, wheezing on their hands and knees, expiring in heaps.A seizure of cold brown smoke should have spilled over the house.What are the operative motifs from mythology when parents take leave of a child? Is there not some standard departure imagery offered by the fables?The day we finally left, birds should have frozen midflight in the winter air as they cruised the neighborhood. Birds locked up with ice, their wings too heavy to hold them aloft. Birds fallen to the ground and piled at our feet, eyes staring up at the sky.In the street, cars should have quit and rolled to a stop and the road should have buckled, with gases leaking forth, with water foaming out, with perhaps an unclothed man clawing his way from under the asphalt to stalk the neighborhood.The yard where we played and sometimes picnicked, where Esther and I once staged father-daughter pretend fights, with fake angry faces, to confuse the passing motorists—Is that a man fistfighting his young daughter?— or where we argued in earnest, with calm faces that belied our true feelings, Esther asserting, no doubt correctly, that there was something I didn’t understand—this yard might have functioned as a massive sinkhole. The yard, a throbbing pit in its center, should have exerted a steady pull on anyone in range.From above, through the brown smoke, you should have seen people and dogs and the smaller trees getting dragged into the collapsing grass.The day we left there should have been mourners in the street, a parade of weeping parents walking from their homes. Or not weeping. Past that. Devoid of all signs of feeling in the face. Just walking with calm expressions because their faces had finally failed to signal what they felt.There should have been music pouring from a loudspeaker on the roof of an emergency vehicle. Or perhaps no music, no sound whatsoever. Instead, an emergency vehicle broadcasting a heavy coating of white noise so that even the leaves rustled silently. A plague of deafness, as if an unseen bunting smothered everything, drinking noise, so we could hear nothing.Making mimes out of all of us. So that we couldn’t hear ourselves breathe. So that our shared language would have been suddenly snuffed out. What a fine bit of foreshadowing that all would have been.But our neighborhood was failing to foreshadow.What is it called when features of the landscape mirror the condition of the poor fucks who live in it?Whatever it is, it was not in effect.