November 9th, 2006


The Last Witch Finder

The Last Witchfinder is the new novel by sorta-Science Fiction author James Morrow, and it was an excellent read. The gimmick of the book -- that it was a novel written by Isaac Newton's "Principia Mathematica" -- is more successful than one might think at first. But the gimmick is rather beside the point, as the tale's the thing. It's part historical novel, part ripping yarn, and since it's Morrow, part deliciously dark humor.

If you've read Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, it's an especially interesting read. It deal with historical figures -- Ben Franklin, Isaac Newton -- that also appear in Stephenson's novels, and covers an overlapping time period. The Baroque Cycle ends a little earlier, and doesn't deal much with American topics. In fact the Europe/Americas ratio of Witchfinder is the inverse of Baroque Cycle. Both books are about the beginning of the Englightenment, which I find amazing.

At any rate, definitely recommended as a good read, as are all of Morrow's books. He is a master of getting the right tone -- "Towing Jehovah" is a novel of extremely black comedy, and yet its also exquisitely sad and humane. "Witchfinder" is likewise very droll, but also emotionally genuine.