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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Was Thursday - G.K. Chesterton I finished this book on Thursday September 26, 2013. Coincidence? Fortuitous? Ironic? Or just plain irrelevant?

I went into this book without any inkling of what it is about . All I know is that it is by [a:G.K. Chesterton|7014283|G.K. Chesterton|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1365860649p2/7014283.jpg], the author of Father Brown the priestly super sleuth. The main reason I decided to read it is that the free Librivox audiobook version comes highly recommended. Librivox audiobooks are all free but the quality is variable, if you want to find which titles are the good ones Google is your friend.

From the title alone I assumed that it is 19th century sci-fi or fantasy novel, something akin to [a:H.G. Wells|880695|H.G. Wells|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1201281795p2/880695.jpg]’ books may be. The title The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare has a time travelly, timey wimey ring to it, but it is nothing of the kind. The timeline is completely linear and there ia only a single narrative strand. If this sounds like a breeze I have to tell you I am still scratching my head as I write (though I am having a bad hair day today).

On the face of it it is a fairly straight forward story of one Gabriel Syme a poet turned policeman who infiltrates a major anarchist group bent on destruction of law and order. Syme uses in oratory skills to join Central Anarchist Council, whose seven members are named after days of the week. The head of the Council is called Sunday, Syme is the eponymous Thursday, replacing a recently diseased council member. During his first meeting with the Council he learns of a plot to assassinate the President of the French Republic in Paris by bombing, he then makes every effort to foil this plot.

Initially I thought I was in for some fun 19th century James Bondery; such is not the case. Practically all the characters in this book are not what they seem. Syme is not what he seems, he is a poet/cop disguised as an anarchist, the members of the council are not what they seem, even the villain of the piece Sunday is not what he seems. In fact the novel in its entirety is not what it seems! It is however very readable with some lovely prose and wonderful word play. Passages like this make it all worthwhile:
His respectability was spontaneous and sudden, a rebellion against rebellion. He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realisation; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene.
The plot moves along at a fair clip, like a turbo charged hansom cab. The novel ends on a philosophical note which I have not quite figured out yet (ask me next week). The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare is not so much a nightmare as a weird trip with a sudden WTF ending.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Zachary Brewster-Geisz for his excellent dramatic professional standard narration of this free audiobook and his kindness in sharing it with the world. What a guy!