Review: The Delphi Room by Melia McClure (4.25/5)

Compelling Premise

Can two misfits find love after death?

This is the interesting question at the heart of The Delphi Room, although I might suggest that the book also explores the question of finding love for oneself after death.

In a beautiful opening chapter, Velvet commits suicide at the urging of her psychosis Shadowman. Afterward, she finds herself alone, locked in a room in what she believes is Hell. Her only companion is another recently deceased prisoner who is locked in a room of his own. He has a psychosis of his own in the form of Clara Bow.

As the two of them learn about each other (in a manner both novel and effective — see below), they also learn about themselves and we see each reflected in the life of the other.

Reflections and the shifting nature of perception are explored on a number of levels and wrapped in sumptuous prose. It’s a literary mille feuille, if you’ll excuse the metaphor. (I probably shouldn’t write when I am hungry!)

The Delphi Room from ChiZine Publications

Lush Writing and Creative Design

The crown of this particular mille feuille is made up of rich, velvety descriptives. We perceive the settings, both in the characters’ purgatorial present, as well as their rebroadcast pasts, in a way that is sharper, yet softer, than we do the everyday physical world. For me, this conveyed a heightening of senses after death and gave a dream-like sheen to the experience.

Velvet and Brinkley learn about each other by turns via notes passed through a grate and vignettes played out in mirrors in their respective rooms. You might think that the narrative shifts would present transitioning and contextual problems for the reader, especially for a story told in the first person.

As it turns out, not so much.

Great writing style and creative book design (the vignettes are formatted as excerpts from a screenplay) keep the context clear and make the transitions effortless. A big tip of the chef’s toque to the author as well as to ChiZine designer Danny Evarts for making it work so very well.

I have to confess that I didn’t absolutely love either Velvet or Brinkley, but I was utterly captivated by the various layers of reflection and perception at play. I was constantly drawn forward through the story and felt the loss when it was over.

Note: Melia McClure will be reading from The Delphi Room on Wednesday, November 13th at 8:00pm as part of ChiSeries Toronto.

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