My (limited) understanding of what transpires within Shamanspace goes (something) like this: there is a God (who resembles a titanic black insect floundering on its back at the centre of an infinite nerve net, fiddling a million legs amid the ferocious stench of vomit and scorching wires), and there are forces at work (opposing forces known as the Prevail and the Internecine) who wish to destroy God (by entering his ethereal body like an ethereal virus and detonating his ethereal heart).
Aylett explains (in the epilogue, after the trip is over, as you come down): “The splinter group known as the Prevail formed by those who considered that god was a thing separate from its works, and that the universe would persist after god’s assassination began a series of splinter skirmishes against the Internecine (or, as they began to call us, the ‘ashers’) which soon became a full cult war . . .”
The book begins with Melody and Sig (a kind of teacher and pupil) discovering Alix (a mythical, semi-legendary being now white-haired and golden-eyed) in an abandoned (house?). Alix tells them how he got there over the course of the novel: basically, there was an attempt upon his life, he fled to Paris (or rather he valved to Paris, spilling like hot metal across what William Gibson would probably call nodal points) where there was a second attempt on his life (a mad chase across the city, endless valving and spuming and blurring, phantoms spilling in and out of gutters and grouting); he is captured, betrayed, freed and escapes to make his attempt upon the life of God. I don’t think he succeeds (but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise).
As with William Gibson, it is not always clear what is going on (you cling to the words, despite the fact that the words sound like metal bees clunking against the insides of your bucket head), and there are times when you lose yourself (the book spirals up and away into some abstract place, rehearsing the relationship between hot air and smoke) yet still you read.
I’m not entirely certain as to why (but maybe it’s because this is a reading experience you do not control, this is reading experience as intoxicant, reading experience as trip).
Any Cop?: If the idea of a trip in the company of Burroughs or Gibson (or Chris Morris, at times) in which you are propelled through the action of The Amber Spyglass at lightspeed doesn’t fill you with terror, this is the (book?) for you.