Every once in a while I start a book that, a few pages in, I feel the need to turn back to the first sentence, slow down, take my time and truly enjoy. Because I read so much for work, and there are never enough hours in the workday to see the bottom of my Inbox, I tend to scan, to skim, to let my eyes slide over words, digesting them enough to get the gist of what I’m reading without actually tasting it – more like chewing gum than enjoying a snack. Rarely do I find reading material, particularly that I’m reading for pleasure, that forces me to slow down, to cock my head and consider each sentence, each description, turn of phrase and idiosyncrasies of dialogue – Joseph Devon’s “Probability Angels” is one such book.
The concept of the novel is intriguing and original - mortals who give up their own lives to save that of a loved one and in turn spend eternity “pushing” other mortals to go as far as possible and create new ideas, art, and technological innovations: such examples in the novel are Isaac Newton, Bram Stoker, and Shakespeare. These “angels” are trained by masters, such as Epp (Epictetus), a one-time slave from Ancient Greece who has pushed mortals and trained angels for centuries. Epp is powerful and smart, tough and brave – and other elder angels think his time as a deified master has come to an end, sparking a battle between the angels and the “other things,” described as zombies, for the soul of Epp and the position of power he holds in their eternal universe.
I won’t go into the details of this novel because I think everyone should read it for themselves, but the themes of this fascinating, thought-provoking read have been tackled and tossed about through the ages: the choices we make affect more than just our lives and create a ripple affect, touching the lives of others for years to come, and making difficult choices – or choosing not to make them and allow life to just “happen” – are how people grow, change, and adapt.
The choices the angels make to forfeit their lives as mortals and spend eternity “testing” other mortals is one of immense, eternal pain and sorrow, but, as Epp tells Matthew, the reward for the excruciating decision long outweighs the temporary pain.
"The upside is that you can be greatness itself. You could be Shakespeare's broken heart, Beethoven's deaf ears, Van Gogh's madness. You could be Kellar's scarlet fever, Roebling's crushed left foot, the color of Dr. King's skin. You could be the entry for light to pass into the soul. You could be the reason everything worth doing on this rock ever gets done."
While the notion that our most difficult decisions, and their life-changing results, are “pushed” by angels who are constantly surrounding us and interacting in our lives in ways that we never realize, is not a purely novel concept, Devon’s characters and methods are original and wholly captivating. His ear for dialogue and knack for character development is to be admired, and I closed the book feeling not only as if I knew the characters but felt invested in their lives. Succinctly, I wanted more but was satisfied in the moment with a fully realized experience. And like any good meal savored slowly and carefully, relishing each moment and morsel, I can’t wait to return for a second course.
You can order "Probability Angels" by Joseph Devon at http://bit.ly/aHbr4