Jack O'Connell's The Resurrectionist starts out standard enough—in a book club sort of way—with a man, Sweeney, who is dealing with the rage and guilt of losing his six-year-old son to a coma and then his wife to suicide. But, holy hell, things get weird fast. Enter Nadia, a femme fatale nurse who's the matriarch of a gang of murderous bikers who steal coma victims' brain juices. Then The Resurrectionist gets really strange with tales of strongmen, death-defying magicians, and a troupe of freaks led by a chicken boy. It's an extraordinary journey that O'Connell provides, an engaging dark trek through consciousness.
Young Danny is in a persistent coma after an accident, so Sweeney takes a job in the mysterious, isolated Peck Clinic in order to watch over his son. Director Dr. Peck, a man who "looked as if his grandfather had owned the most efficient general store on the prairie," claims he can resurrect patients from vegetative states, but it seems that Danny is lost in Limbo, a comic book he was reading at the time of his accident. Sweeney finds himself rereading this comic series, desperately trying to understand its complex narrative, in which a band of exiled sideshow freaks travel the old-world countryside in search of a home. The Goldfaden Freaks are led by the pure-hearted chicken boy, Chick, who is searching for his father in a land of limbo and feverish seizures.
Meanwhile, Sweeney is eventually kidnapped from the clinic by Nadia and the bikers, who take him to an abandoned prosthetics factory. There, they cook the "Soup," a brain-altering drug made from the aforementioned brain juices, which allows Sweeney to enter the land of Limbo and possibly find Danny, and save Chick from a villainous magician who is hunting them down. Phew, I told you things got weird.
These disparate stories and settings dance around each other in O'Connell's novel, forming a thick stew of intrigue. The Resurrectionist is an effortless read, chockablock with film noir twists and ideas about different states of consciousness. Imagine the creepy horror and fascination you first felt after reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes; you'll have a good idea how an entire afternoon slipped out of your control and you got lost in O'Connell's limbo.