The Anomaly, by Hervé Le Tellier
March 30, 2022 10:10 AM - Subscribe

It’s so difficult not to spoil any plot points; maybe it’s best to leave all the descriptions for inside the post.
posted by The corpse in the library (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Holy moly, I enjoyed this. I’d placed a hold on it a while ago and forgotten what it was, and the e-book didn’t have any description, so I went into it unaware. I wasn’t particularly enjoying the beginning and nearly returned it barely read but decided to see why Past Me had thought I’d like it. Very glad I did.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:12 AM on March 30, 2022

"All smooth flights are alike. Every turbulent flight is turbulent in its own way."

This fit easily into the category of books loosely gathered under "French novelization of philosophical ideas", like Nausea, The Little Prince, The Stranger, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Sophie's World (which is written by a Norwegian but feels like it belongs in this category nonetheless).

Lately I've struggled with the mechanism of having the focus change each chapter to a new character. Unless the plot is thrilling, I'm much more of a character-driven reader and it's difficult for me to care (or sometimes, track) who's who with each change. In the end it made sense for this book, but several chapters in I was still looking back to clarify connections and that annoyed me.

I was dispirited by what happened to some of the June versions of the passengers. Some sobering commentary on our world. Maybe it's just my phase of life, but I felt the richest story-line to explore was the one of the two mothers. It felt like a real ethical dilemma in the way many of the others did not. The contract killer character was tonally the least realistic and I felt a little taken in, in that he acted more as a carnival barker to get you to ante up for the show under the tent.

I'm not sure yet whether "what happened" is something I believe in. Most of the time what I think is that we must act "as if" --- as if life is meaningful, as if life is real, as if our actions matter --- no matter what the explanation is for this thing we call reality.
posted by cocoagirl at 1:18 PM on March 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was pretty meh on this book until very end when they blow up the third plane and the universe ends. What a clever, daring end – one that redeemed a lot of the nonsense earlier!

After finishing, I read that the author wrote this partly (mostly?) as a parody of page-turner thrillers, which if true excuses some of the dreadful characterisation – but regardless, the central sci-fi idea is really quite excellent and I don't think I've seen it done before. Probably my favourite bits, besides the end, were the whole sci-fi investigation bits in the middle.
posted by adrianhon at 1:34 PM on March 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

The ending made me laugh.

I liked the conceit so much that I would happily read another book with exactly the same plot, told from different perspectives. The Chinese reaction was intriguing; were there any other planes besides the Chinese and French ones? I want to know!
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:50 PM on March 30, 2022

I liked the conceit so much that I would happily read another book with exactly the same plot, told from different perspectives.

Via Wikidia: "The writer Pascal Fioretto wrote a pastiche of the novel, entitled L'Anomalie du train 006 de Brive, published by Éditions Herodios in June 2021." - So maybe we'll see a translation of that one day as well. (My French, at least, would not be good enough.)

As for The Anomaly itself: a lot that has been said in this thread already. I enjoyed the end the most, and at times felt Le Tellier could have done more with the great concept. I did not know that he wrote it as a parody of page-turner thrillers, which makes a lot of sense now. (Especially at the beginning of the novel, with Blake, I felt like I've stumbled into a Chuck Palahniuk story.)
posted by bigendian at 1:53 AM on April 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

He can say it's a parody of a page-turner thriller; I think it's a page-turner thriller. Once I would've said the way he wrote the US president was a parody but now it seems entirely realistic.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:46 AM on April 2, 2022

So the only person whose choices mattered, in the end, was the US President.

I also found it hard to keep track of who was who, and I was patiently waiting for Blake to save the day somehow. He had all these skills and used them to... just run away and go back to normal.
Realistic (kind of), but a letdown.

Overall it was an enjoyable read, but it's certainly not the many many stories I hoped it would be while reading.
posted by Acari at 8:54 AM on June 4, 2022

And as much as I hated to read the child abuse plotline, I think a more interesting question could have arisen.
If the circumstances were different (just dad on the plane instead of just dad missing the plane) we could have the question of whether you can convince two people for the same crime.
posted by Acari at 5:46 AM on June 5, 2022

Acari: The other world governments who received duplicate planes also made decisions that mattered!
posted by adrianhon at 5:51 AM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

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