The Impossible Bird

Patrick O'Leary, 2002, Sci-fi

On loan to: Nathan Crane

This book, Patrick O'Leary's third, received almost no notice from anyone. That's kind of sad, because it's really good.

The protagonists are two brothers who have a pretty dysfunctional relationship. The setting is, essentially, "The Matrix", except there are inscrutable aliens instead of malevolent machines. And through this gumbo of odd ideas, O'Leary explores some interesting questions that sci-fi books typically don't touch on. What would Heaven be like, if you could build it? If you built Heaven, how would people @#$% it up? Can people handle the truth? And if aliens showed up, what would they want from people?

The answers O'Leary finds may not be the ones you'd hope. The ending could be a bit depressing. And there's something late in the book that was probably put in for sheer shock value, since it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know about the characters. But the whole book is something that comes from out of left field, wallops you in the head, and makes you think about a lot of things.