Something of a publishing sensation elsewhere in Europe, Q
is a convoluted historical thriller by a consortium of young pseudonymous authors, who, it has to be said, are a little too in love with their own cleverness. Q is the working name of a papal spy trying to keep a lid on the Reformation, particularly on the Anabaptist radicalism which is its form most dangerous to the social order, and for decades he watches, and occasionally gets in close and betrays. The man sometimes known as Gert is his opposite--all the more so because he hardly knows of Q's existence--the idealist who is caught up in the same events: Luther's sermons, the rise and fall of Thomas Muntzer, the disastrous People's Republic of Munster.
Parallels are being struck all over the place with radicalism in the 20th century--part of what makes Gert a memorable voice is a combination of zeal, pragmatism and survival instinct that keeps him one step ahead of the Inquisitors for 30 years and enables him to, for example, do serious damage to the Holy Roman Emperor's favourite bankers. In the end, Gert and Q are left with more in common than the past they share--the rules are changing and the board is being cleared, and there is time for one last crucial intervention... This is ingeniously plotted, and full of vividly realised scenes of 16th century life; if it has a fault, it is that we live through every day of three tumultuous decades, every sermon and theological treatise, in exhausting detail. --Roz Kaveney
--This text refers to an alternate
From Publishers Weekly
Rich religious history is turned into bloated, tedious fiction in this Reformation-age epic produced by four anonymous writers lurking behind a pseudonym. In 1517, Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Cathedral. In 1525, a one-time theological student, a radical Anabaptist who goes under a number of names over the course of the narrative, but who is initially called Gustav Metzger, pulls off the first of a number of hairbreadth escapes from heretic hunters keen to spill the blood of any would-be supporter of Luther. For the next 30 years, even as Protestantism slowly makes inroads across Europe, Metzger is tracked by a papal spy who, traveling incognito under the eponymous moniker Q, keeps his boss apprised while he and his compatriots attempt to crush the movement on behalf of the Vatican before the schism widens. Needless to say, they fail. Translator Whiteside has done the best he could with the material: stripped-down chapters breathlessly composed of short, snappy paragraphs ("The girl smiles. She's extremely beautiful") alternate with epistolary passages given a faux-historical gloss. Speech anachronisms abound throughout, especially when events are related by Metzger and company (" 'What the fuck did you say? What? So you're not dead, but you scare me anyway, pal, you scare me'"), and most of the characters sound so alike that not only do they remain lifeless on the page, they are often indistinguishable from one another. A good amount of historical research is lumped throughout, but the period stylings are wooden and the story never gains enough momentum to carry readers along.
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