I don’t even know how to begin reviewing this book, but let me start with this: The King of Infinite Space is my favourite book of the year, and, I’m quite certain, a new all time favourite book.
The King of Infinite Space is, first and foremost, a book that is STEEPED in love. It’s a novel that pretty much immediately won me over because it just has so much heart, and you can feel it radiating on every page. We follow three main characters, each inspired by a character from Hamlet: Ben (Hamlet), Horatio (this one is obvious), and Lia (Ophelia)–and I ADORED them all. More and more, I find myself craving books that are just about people trying to be good, to themselves and to others, and The King of Infinite Space is exactly that kind of book. Its characters feel keenly, love wholeheartedly, and they are so good–not flawless, but always trying to be decent, to be good to those they care about, even if they also inevitably hurt them. And something about characters who are just good gets to me, and god, this book GOT TO ME. I could cry just thinking about it (I might already be).
Also: Lynday Faye’s writing is just gorgeous, brimming with personality and pitch-perfect dialogue. She absolutely sticks the landing with the big moments, but she also has such a deft hand with the little moments. Even scenes that aren’t that important in the grand scheme of the novel manage to be moving, because there are always little lines that just stop you in your tracks, moments where the characters’ vulnerabilities peek out, when they feel so much more starkly human. And more than just affecting, Faye’s prose is also experimental, which I loved. This is front and center in Ben’s chapters, where paragraphs break off into verse lines in different fonts and font sizes. In a different author’s hands it might’ve come off as tacky, maybe, but in Faye’s it just amplifies Ben’s emotions that much more, as though prose isn’t enough to convey the sheer depth of his feelings.
As for plot, there is, of course, the Shakespearean element: this is primarily a Hamlet retelling, but it also includes other Shakespeare-inspired elements and characters. But more than just repeating the Hamlet plot with a bit of variation, Faye takes its themes and ideas and breathes new life into them. Hamlet’s obsession with death and existence becomes Ben’s fascination with–and graduate degree in–the philosophy of physics. Hamlet’s soliloquies become musings on time and supernovas and entropy, and beautiful musings at that. And Ben’s interest in science is not just some flimsy quirk of his; it fundamentally informs the way he thinks about and approaches the world. And it’s also why he’s one of the most compelling and captivating characters I’ve read about all year.
More than anything, though, The King of Infinite Space is a love story through and through; love that, as Newton would have it, cannot be created or destroyed, but love that only changes forms, because it is “everywhere and everywhen,” in Ben’s words; these characters will always care about each other, their love for each other runs that deep.
Anyway, I fucking adored this book, and I can’t wait to reread it over and over again.