Alembic

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9781564780096: Alembic
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Alembic is an unsettling novel about madness and alchemy, epistemology and rock and roll, magic and perversion. Thomas Graves, a young antiquarian, works for ALEMBIC, a British government office investigating the contemporary applications of the secrets of alchemy. The strange world of alchemy, however, is as eerie as the rock and roll world of Thomas's friend Nicholas Spark, leader of a Led Zeppelin-like band called Celestial Praylin. Moving between these worlds, colorfully conveyed in d'Arch Smith's sonorous prose - at times elegant, at times comic - Thomas Graves feels his grip on reality constantly imperilled; his attraction to the fourteen-year-old daughter of one of his colleagues complicates his existence further. A dramatic turn of events brings all of his fears and fancies out in the open, suggesting finally that the world is as mad as Thomas thought himself to be. Alembic is itself an alembic, a vessel that allows things to disintegrate and be transformed into new, refined substances. Set largely in the early 1980s, Alembic ends in the early years of the twenty-first century as alchemy engineers a new world order of darkness and perfection, destruction and eternal life, concluding a novel of great originality and ill-boding.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Judging from his earlier books, this antiquarian book dealer and writer's interests are eclectic, ranging from the English "Uranian" poets to rock music to Aleister sp ok Crowley. All of those concerns can be detected in this, his first novel. The protagonist, Thomas Graves, who has long been fascinated with alchemical texts, is recruited by ALEMBIC, a shadowy British government department dedicated to searching for the philosopher's stone and the endless gold and eternal life it will bring. Compounding the strangeness of his peculiar position are Graves's vulnerable imagination and the influence of the symbolist-sated, sexually jaded, possibly satanic Nicholas Spark, an old friend and the animating spirit of a wildly popular hard-rock band. It's a formula for paranoia, and everything that follows--from the grounding of herons to the sexual preoccupations of Graves's underage lover--becomes tinted with a (perhaps deserved) sinister significance. As in a maze, a few paths rather annoyingly lead nowhere, but d'Arch Smith's anfractuous, often beautiful prose is seductive, whether in comic deadpan descriptions of improbable events or in the gradual, hallucinatory revelation of the truly unnatural.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review:

"... often beautiful prose is seductive, whether in deadpan description of improbable events or in the gradual, hallucinatory revelation..." -- Publishers Weekly

"Alembic . . . reads like a brilliant, mannered dark fantasy while consisting almost entirely of 'mainstream' (non-supernatural) events, before culminating in a chapter-length Epilogue that turns it into an alchemical amalgam of horror and sf. All this in convoluted, sometimes Proustian, prose, spiced with delicious wit. . . . [I]t all boils down to something like sheer force of personality. Reading this book is like spending a few hours with a splendid, eccentric raconteur. Listen patiently, and you will be richly rewarded." -- LOCUS

"I found Alembic charged with fire. Timothy d'Arch Smith writes a prose that seems activated by lightning, full of passion and power. Who, in the minimalist age of the dim bulb, won't give thanks?" -- Alexander Theroux

"[T]his rather classy brand of pulp is as stylistically convoluted as Henry James and much too good for the Booker Prize shortlist. It's wild yet dignifiedjust like the author. [Alembic is] a guilty pleasure for the oddballs to drool over." -- Penthouse

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Timothy D'Arch Smith; Timothy D'Arch Smith
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