Probability Angels
Joseph Devon
January 2009, 282 Pages, $10.99
Speculative Fiction
Review by Darkeva

Plot Summary: Matthew Huntington’s problems seem to keep growing. Not only is he seeing things in garbage cans but his mentor doesn’t think he’s working up to his full potential, his best friend can’t offer any solace but drunken confusion and his wife is dying in Central Park. Of course, the fact that Matthew himself died over two decades ago isn’t helping things.

Review: Probability Angels starts off, oddly enough, in a men’s bathroom where the main character, Matthew, is consoling a heartbroken man in love. We soon find out that Matthew has been dead for some time, and he’s on his way to becoming an afterlife being called a “tester.” He sees his own wife die in Central Park, as the summary mentions, and screams at his mentor, another tester named Epictetus (or Epp for short) to bring her back and to take his life (although he’s already dead). From then on, he learns that in order to become a tester, he has to sever all ties to his loved ones, including the daughter he didn’t know he had. He becomes a tester trainee under Epp’s watchful eye. A tester can have wisdom and greatness, but they have to give up ties to loved ones, as previously mentioned, and the memories of time spent on Earth that they most cherish.

The novel has the same tone as an episode of Supernatural except it’s even more downbeat, and the focus is on Matthew’s personal struggles rather than an epic battle between heaven and hell, which is sort of where I was expecting this one to go.

It’s an introspective book that’s features some heavy philosophy, which is an interesting change of pace compared to the straight pulpy action-adventure that I was expecting. And it’s a welcome addition to the genre where most of the books feature fight scene after fight scene and grandiose battles. This book is decidedly more literary, but written in an engaging manner.

As part of his training, Matthew has to watch some scenes from the past involving his wife and daughter so that he can learn to let go of them better. And although this is difficult for him, things get even harder when more testers under Epp’s tutelage show up, namely Mary and Bartleby, followed by Kyo, Nyx, and Hector.

Epp shows Matthew all kinds of oddities, including a tester named Gregor who developed an elaborate but convincing ruse that led people to believe he was Dracula. Another historical figure featured in the book is Sir Isaac Newton, which spices things up a bit. Eventually the troupe make their way to Mercury (yes, the planet), which is one of the most interesting portions of the novel.

One of the most enjoyable elements of the book is the Socrates and Plato relationship that Epp and Matthew have, and learning with him as Epp teaches the reader fascinating secrets to his own life and why certain things are the way they are. But even Epp has his battles, especially as he has to face the Council that governs testers. The scenes that I enjoyed most were those between Epp and Matthew, who are both fascinating characters

There are several point of view shifts and flashbacks but they’re all demarcated properly and the text divided in such a way that the reader won’t have a problem following along. However, the sequence in which events involving the supporting characters took place was somewhat off-kilter. Some of the plot points felt like they happened all over the place and they got a bit jumbled, but when the story returned to Matthew, things most more interesting.

The section entitled “The Monk, the Warrior, and the Lord” was a bit slow in terms of pacing, and the plotline with Kyo didn’t captivate me as much as I hoped it would, but the “Osmosis” section turned things around and picked up the action.

For the reader who wants a bit more introspection in speculative fiction narratives infused with philosophy and explorations of morality, Probability Angels will be a highly satisfying read.

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