Daryl Gregory's Afterparty is getting another post, which feels excessive, except that I wrote the last one before I finished it and a) shouted out loud several times during the last 60 pages, and b) did not mention Ollie ONCE in the last post. This is a sad failure on my part, and by god I'm going to rectify it.
See, Ollie is amazing. There is a standard role in an action story where the hero has a sidekick who has all the skills, and the hero just rides along on their coattails. Right? Like Hermione in Harry Potter, and any spy's computer geeky sidekick. It's not even that whenever Lyda needs to get something done Ollie is there; she's just there, getting things done before Lyda even knows they need doing or are possible.
Mental illness is a big theme in the book--issues of belief and how religious faith affects your thoughts and actions, how some kinds of faith can look like mental illness, and what it's like to live and function in the world while mentally ill all converge here. It's a pretty irreverent book, but on the whole I found its treatment of mental illness very respectful.
See, Lyda and Ollie met at a psychiatric facility--specifically a neuropsych facility. Lyda sees and hears an angel because she overdosed on Numinous. Ollie is an ex-CIA agent who overdosed on alertness drugs. On her medication, she's a brilliant, rational person with agnosia--she's not blind, but she can't tell what she's looking at. All visual stimuli are the same to her--she can't tell a person from a couch from a wall. Off her meds, she is highly perceptive and can see patterns in any and everything--and she's extremely paranoid. Unmedicated Ollie is incredibly effective and dangerous to herself and others.
And this book treats her so well. She's a damned genius, on or off her meds, and she is fiercely loyal and bold and fragile and invincible. Lyda and Ollie's relationship is so poignant--Lyda's emotional fragility is balanced by Ollie's bold vulnerability, and watching them transform as a couple is incredible. Romantic isn't quite the right word, though it's a romance--it's about how they find strength in each other in spite of themselves that I love.
Damn fine book, this.