Political action you never knew you wanted

Editor’s Note: The Observer’s November book recommendation is Daniel O’Malley’s “The Rook,” a supernatural action novel that combines a British bureaucracy with mystery and comedy. Pick it up if you’re looking for a distraction between midterms or over break.

Imagine the two scariest things you can think of, and then combine them. That’s right, Daniel O’Malley’s “The Rook” masterfully combines bureaucracy and the supernatural into a hilarious novel with just the right amount of mystery.

Poor Myfanwy Thomas wakes up with no idea who she is. Good thing she’s also a detail-oriented administrator who may have seen this coming. Armed with a binder full of insights, Myfanwy resumes her role as a top leader in Britain’s most secret and dangerous organization: the Checquy. The Checquy takes its job of taming the supernatural and unnatural things that crop up unexpectedly very seriously and very secretly. When it’s trying not to recruit them, of course.

The characters define the book’s unique take on the supernatural and contribute the most to its worldbuilding. Myfanwy’s coworker is a hivemind spread between four highly attractive siblings, and they’re one of the more normal ones. Myfanwy herself is an enigma, and her plan of impersonating herself to find out who wiped her memory is what drives the plot forward. However, one of the best aspect of O’Malley’s Britain is the Checquy’s most feared adversaries: the Grafters.

The Grafters, the book’s primary antagonists, are a group of scientists whose sole purpose is to pervert the natural order of things as God intended, making biological weapons out of men, pigs and whatever else they get their hands on. Worse, they’re Belgian and they seem to have their sights on conquering the British Isles.

“The Rook” is absolutely hysterical, with a truly bizarre cast of characters. It’s also remarkably self-aware, pointing out potential flaws within the setup before the reader has the chance. O’Malley does a remarkable job of creating twists and turns that are completely unexpected, and the pacing never flags; overall, a perfect read for this upcoming Thanksgiving break.

Book: “The Rook”
Author: Daniel O’Malley
Release: Jan. 11, 2012
Rating: 5/5 Stars