Malcolm Connor edited the description of The Flame Alphabet Friday, May 6, 2011.
From one of the most innovative and important writers of his generation: a brilliant, mesmerizingly dark new novel in which the speech of children is killing their parents. At first it’s just Jews—then everyone. People are leaving their families to survive. Sam’s wife, Claire, is already stricken and near death. In a year or two, as she grows into adulthood, their daughter, Esther, too, will become a victim. Sam and Claire decide to leave Esther on her own, hoping a “cure” will miraculously appear. Sam’s car is waved off the road at a government-run laboratory where horrific tests are being conducted to create non-lethal speech. Throngs bang on the doors to be subject volunteers; they’re all carried out half-dead. When Sam realizes what’s going on, he makes a desperate escape, vowing that if he dies it will be with his family, the only refuge of sanity and love. Ben Marcus’s nightmarish vision is both completely alien and frighteningly familiar.
“Ben Marcus is the rarest kind of writer: a necessary one. It's become impossible to imagine the literary world—the world itself—without his daring, mind-bending and heartbreaking writing.” —Jonathan Safran Foer
“Echoes of Ballard’s insanely sane narrators, echoes of Kafka’s terrible gift for metaphor, echoes of David Lynch, William Burroughs, Robert Walser, Bruno Schulz, and Mary Shelley: a world of echoes and re-echoes--I mean our world--out of which the sanely insane genius of Ben Marcus somehow manages to wrest something new and unheard of. And yet as I read The Flame Alphabet, late into the night, feverishly turning the pages, I felt myself, increasingly, in the presence of the classic.” —Michael Chabon