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Down and Out In Purgatory by Tim Powers
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Down and Out In Purgatory

by Tim Powers

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Very disappointing in light of Tim Powers's Faultline Trilogy, which I just read recently. I see Powers is somewhat inconsistent, so I'll have to ask for recommendations as to what of his quantitatively impressive output I'll read next. ( )
  NatalieSW | Nov 27, 2016 |
A man's hate is so strong for someone who killed the woman he loved that he is willing to pursue that man himself beyond death to consign him fully to nothingness/oblivion. That of course means that our protagonist has to die so he can meet his enemy on the "other side."

Interesting premise. And in the universe Tim Powers creates it becomes possible. A medium to the whom the man is directed has the power to make it happen, as he is in contact with the souls residing in Purgatory. The transition is achieved, and Purgatory is something of a dream-like place, but with definite boundaries. While a way-station on the way to Being in the Infinite, it reveals itself not to be the place of intense purging-place of traditional Catholic theology, but more of a place where can come to resolution of uncompleted issues they still have to "figure out" before they can move on to the peace of Eternity.

Because the environs of Purgatory seem so hallucinogenic to the newcomer (the reader as well as the newly dead), it is initially disorienting, that being witnessed completely arbitrary. But to stick with it (the dead person must; the reader need not) is to find that there are rules governing it all. Be patient, reader! The book is short--qualifying really only as a novella--and all will be revealed in the end.

For me, the greatest hurdle to overcome is the premise that launches the book--that someone could be so obsessed with hate as to want to willing be killed himself to pursue his already-dead enemy. Further, to take such a drastic measure would require an unshakable conviction that there exists a certain kind of afterlife that the enemy might be "enjoying," that by being killed, the protagonist could occupy too. And the impetus for his hate--that the other killed the woman he loved--has to have been fueled by a greater passion than is communicated in this particular story.

But put that overanalysis aside, and the reader may find him/herself treated to an entertaining story. ( )
  kvrfan | Aug 19, 2016 |
Entertaining but a bit disappointing novella by Tim Powers, a living classic in the fantasy genre from whom I expected more. This story of revenge started in quite a promising way, but once the main character arrives in the purgatory (and I found slightly unbelievable that anyone would accept to go through what he has to go through to get there) I started to feel that I was losing interest in it, maybe things were happening too fast, maybe the description of this strange purgatory was more relevant in the book than the plot and the characters themselves…
Compared with those of his novels I’ve read, this is definitely a minor Power’s work, but given its brevity, it’s still worth reading if you’re a fan of Tim Power or you enjoy fast-paced fantasy stories with a touch of surrealism. ( )
  cuentosalgernon | Apr 23, 2016 |
Showing 4 of 4
Down and Out in Purgatory is Tim Powers’s first true descent, I think, into the bardo, the kind of afterlife fable exemplified by such bold masterpieces as Damon Knight’s Humpty Dumpty: An Oval, and Will Self’s How the Dead Live. Powers has been steadily building up a physics or natural science of ghosts in his many variegated yet resonant books. Now he embarks on an actual cosmology of posthumousness. What Niven & Pournelle aimed for at novel length in Inferno is surpassed here at a fraction of the length...

The rest of the odyssey indeed finds Holbrook on a bizarre, surreal quest in the afterlife, which Powers conjures up with insane visionary inspiration. Despite being the tale of dead souls, Holbrook’s emotionally powerful quest reveals more about the nature of love and duty among the living than many a mimetic novel. There are plot twists galore, and incidental characters you will never forget, including Hubcap Pete, whose peregrinations keep Purgatory spinning. By the time you get to the scene where the chambers of a revolver are loaded with jellybeans—“four of them with tiny firing pin dents”—your mind will be well and truly blown.
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Epigraph
“I’ve always thought that death puts an end to the possibilities of revenge.”

—PETER O’DONNELL

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

—CONFUCIUS
Dedication
For Michael and Laura Yanovich
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"This way. Keep the clipboard visible and don’t meet anybody’s eye. Look like you work here, right?”
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This work is a single story.

Do not combine with Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers which is a collection of 20 stories.
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Book description
What do you do if the man you’ve vowed to kill dies before you can kill him?

In college, Tom Holbrook worshipped Shasta DiMaio from afar, but she married the arrogant John Atwater—and Atwater eventually murdered her.

All that’s left for Tom is revenge. He has devoted the rest of his life to finding Atwater and killing him—but when he finally finds him, Atwater is in a bag in the Los Angeles County morgue.

How do you kill a man who has already died?
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"In college, Tom Holbrook worshipped Shasta DiMaio from afar, but she married the arrogant John Atwater--and Atwater eventually murdered her. All that's left for Tom is revenge. He has devoted the rest of his life to finding Atwater and killing him--but when he finally finds him, Atwater is in a bag in the Los Angeles County morgue. How do you kill a man who has already died?"--Page 2 of book jacket.… (more)

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