It follows a strange but recognisable story—the quest for immortality whether through words, legacies, families, or more Mary Shelleyish means. Yes, Frankenstein has its huge, lumbering steps all over this novel, but in a very knowing way. Actually, it’s got a flavour of Dostoyevsky too with its doubles and copies and golems and Russian intrigue.
Nicholas Slopen is a mediocre academic who writes about Samuel Johnston. But when he’s invited to authenticate some apparently ‘new’ letters of Johnston, he’d sucked into a science fiction world which harks back to the Soviet Union, populated by cultured sorts who want to discuss Shakespeare’s identity.
It sounds quite odd, but it does work, even if the end section feels rushed. Strange Bodies is fast paced and punchy, while holding its literariness firmly to the forefront and giving some melancholic, brooding philosophical discussions on identity. And whilst if you think about it, the plot is completely bonkers, you don’t really notice it at the time (which is definitely a David Mitchell type skill).