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While working to restore an historic theatre in a seedy part of the city, a graduate student named Anthea searches to find her best friend, lost to the rhetoric of an itinerant preacher and street mystic. Almost a century earlier, Liam, a tenth-rate tenor, visits the same theatre while eking out a career on the dying Vaudeville circuits of the day. In both eras, an apocalyptic strain of utopian mysticism threatens their existence: Anthea contends with a nascent New Age movement in the heart of the city while Liam encounters a radical theosophical commune in the deep country along the coast of British Columbia, who appear to be building ... something.
The Paradise Engine unfolds across a colourful backdrop of labour organizers, immaculately-attired cultists, ambitious socialites, teenage lovers, basement offices and innumerable coffee shops. Its cast of characters and historical setting recalls Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business or Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, while its approach to memory and community is reminiscent of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
• theparadiseengine.tumblr.com, a collection of art pieces, words and music that inspired the novel's creation
"An exquisite tale of mystery and mystics, abundant with satisfying wit and insight."
"Richly textured and unpretentious prose, with seamlessly crafted flashbacks from contemporary life to intriguing early 20th Century characters and events. Campbell has the potential to become a prominent figure in the Canadian literary world."
"Dizzying its way from long-dead B.C. music halls to the present-day halls of academia, Anthea’s quest threads its ghostlike way through the narrative until we’re dizzy ourselves, wondering what is real, what is imagined, and where the line dividing past and present truly lies."
"On top of excellent writing and character development, Campbell has put in some serious groundwork to set the scene – no easy feat when you’re dealing with two worlds, maybe more if you consider the paranormal aspects." full review
"... flawlessly weaves together multiple narratives ... the suspense it creates, as well as the mysteries it sets up and the clues it so meticulously lays out, make this novel well worth the read." full review
"[a] mystifying story that melds the Vaudeville era of Vancouver history with contemporary Vancouver."
"Rebecca Campbell brings intelligence and mystery to this strange indie tale."
"As a first novel, this effort is impressive, with intimations of great things to come. Rebecca Campbell is definitely a young Canadian author to watch." full review
"What The Paradise Engine invites us to consider is the form, the meaning, and the price of going on. Immortality, the story warns us, always demands a sacrifice." full review
"The Paradise Engine is an original, well-written, complicated novel recommended for historians and other patient thinkers." full review