Sergio De La Pava’s A Naked Singularity was one of the most highly praised debut novels in decades. The Wall Street Journal called it “a propulsive, mind-bending experience,” and named it one of the ten best books of the year. The Toronto Star did the same, calling it “a great American novel: large, ambitious, and full of talk.” In Slate, Paul Ford proclaimed,“It’s a fine thing for an author to bring forth something so unapologetically maximalist.”
This book is nothing like that one. Just look at it: A Naked Singularity was a brick of a book, 678 pages, and this one’s slim--lean and focused. A Naked Singularity locked us into the unforgettable voice of its protagonist, Casi, while Personae shimmers and shifts among different perspectives, locations, and narrative techniques.
But sharp readers will quickly see that the two books are the work of the same hand. The sheer energy of De La Pava’s sentences, his eye for absurd humor, his commitment to the idea of justice--all will be familiar here as they carry us from the tale of an obsessive, damaged psychic detective consumed by a murder case, into a Sartrean drama that raises questions (and jokes) about responsibility, fate, death, and more. And when De La Pava eventually returns us to the investigation, this time seen from the other side, the lives and deaths bound up in it feel all the more real, and moving, even as solid answers slip away into mist.
Shelf Awareness declared that A Naked Singularity "heralded the arrival of a tremendous talent." In some ways, despite its brevity, Personae is even more surprising and challenging--and, in its ambition and fierce intelligence, it’s proof that Sergio De La Pava is here to stay.