I discovered Daryl Gregory through We Are All Completely Fine, which was insanely creepy and which I loved. I haven't read many more of his books, but I've always meant to, especially since Brenda loves them so much. For some reason, Afterparty was the one I've been most drawn to, probably because it seemed like the least disturbing--the least warping of reality going on.
It's everything I had hoped, and even more than I had known to hope for. I figured there would be atmosphere and intensity, but I don't think that I had hoped for the depth of character study or the complicated ideas about god that I got.
Lyda Rose was part of the small team that invented the drug Numinous. Now, years later, one member of the team is in prison, one is dead, and Lyda is in a psychiatric hospital. When she learns that Numinous is back on the street, she gets out and goes to find who's responsible and stop them.
The story hinges around Numinous, though. This is a drug that allows the user to experience god. They will see and hear and feel whatever god is appropriate to them--one person sees an angel, another sees Ganesh, and a third just experiences the sensation of being loved and forgiven in a profound and deep way. All of them, though, know in their hearts that this is god.
Withdrawal is pretty bad, though, and if you overdose, well, god can end up talking over your shoulder forever.
The book is action-packed, with enough double-crosses, dangerous characters, and chase scenes to populate a John Grisham novel. The pace is kind of relentless, but what makes the story stick to your ribs is Lyda's conviction that a drug that makes you perceive god is incredibly dangerous--and the people who fight her for it. It seems obvious that it would be bad, but the influence of the drug on specific characters is often benign, even when it resembles psychosis. And someone wants the drug out there, but we don't know if it's for profit or faith.
This is a book full of delusions and imaginary friends, and the narrator is far more reliable than her own mind is. Rarely have I read a book with this many ideas and this much action packed so tightly together in such a fast-paced package. Brenda was (as always) right; I need to read more Daryl Gregory.